New Delhi – The ongoing Rohingya crisis in Myanmar has put the spotlight on Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her stubborn refusal to criticise the Burmese army’s crackdown against the ethnic minority community. Suu Kyi, who is the de facto head of the Myanmar government in her position of state counsellor, has in fact referred to the global outrage against Burmese authorities’ treatment of Rohingyas as being fuelled by an “iceberg of misinformation”. This is indeed shocking coming from someone who has long championed the cause of peace and human rights. For, anyone can plainly see the pain and suffering of the stateless Rohingyas who have long faced severe discrimination in Myanmar.
So why is Suu Kyi unable to see what is happening to the Rohingyas? Does she not care? Was her track record on human rights really fake? The truth is the world had come to love Suu Kyi the fighter of human rights and democracy in Myanmar. However, the world is yet to come to terms with Suu Kyi the politician. Ever since she worked out a deal with the Tatmadaw – as Myanmar’s army is known – to participate in elections and hold political office, Suu Kyi has undergone a significant transformation. One must realise that she made a conscious decision to abandon her outright resistance to the Tatmadaw so that she could help the people of Myanmar from within the system. Hence, to hold up the Suu Kyi of today and try to find in her the Suu Kyi of the old when she was placed under house arrest and deemed a prisoner of conscience is simply foolish.
Coming to the situation with respect to ethnic nationalities in Myanmar, it’s a fact that the peace process has failed to achieve desired results. Negotiations between the government and the multitude of armed insurgent groups have made little progress. Many of the groups haven’t even signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement and sporadic clashes between them and the Tatmadaw continue. The Tatmadaw doesn’t want Myanmar to break up. And it is to safeguard Myanmar’s territorial integrity that it has viciously fought the ethnic armed groups for decades. However, it was unable to annihilate the insurgent movements. Thus, it decided to switch tactics and back political reforms as a way of neutralising the insurgencies.
But with the peace process not making much headway, the Tatmadaw could be losing patience. In this scenario, the emergence of an armed Rohingya group – the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – in Myanmar’s Rakhine state last year raised the Tatmadaw’s hackles. Dealing with yet another armed outfit, that too representing the stateless Rohingyas, is something that the Tatmadaw had not counted on. It’s possible that it views the development as an affront to its decision to allow political reforms and try out negotiations with ethnic groups. Also, the Rohingya decision to take up arms is most likely influenced by the peace process itself – Rohingyas have concluded that the only way to make Naypyidaw heed their plight and demands is through an armed movement. But legitimising the Rohingyas is the last thing that the Tatmadaw wants.
This explains the latest round of security brutalities against the Rohingyas. The Tatmadaw is making it quite clear that Rohingya minorities have no place in the Myanmar system. And Suu Kyi is in no position to oppose this stance, even if she wanted to. This is precisely the reason that the international community and the UN need to step in. What’s happening to the Rohingyas is terrible and tragic. A compassionate approach to Rohingya refugees coupled with pressure on Myanmar to end discrimination against the minority community is the only solution. Rohingyas are being persecuted from all sides. Their men, women and children are being murdered, raped and tortured. The international community must wake up.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity.