Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, who tried to cross the Naf river into Bangladesh to escape sectarian violence, are kept under watch by Bangladeshi security officials after disembarking from an intercepted boat in Teknaf on June 18, 2012.
Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire for her silence on the massacre of Rohingya Muslims.
The Noble Peace laureate has refused to speak out against abuses committed by Myanmar’s military on Rohingyas, described by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted people in the world.
Ironically, just days after she received a peace prize, Suu Kyi told reporters she did not know if Rohingyas were Burmese.
Activists, who used to support the world famous symbol of human rights through her years of imprisonment and isolation, now accuse her of ignoring the most pressing human rights issue in her country today.
“It’s disappointing, she is in a difficult position, but people have been disappointed she hasn’t been more outspoken,” said Anna Roberts, executive director of the Burma Campaign UK.
“She passed up opportunities to say good things on this,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
“This was all blowing up when she was travelling in Europe and she didn’t confront it,” he added, referring to her recent foreign tour to London, Dublin, Paris and Oslo.
Suu Kyi is under fire as she also refused to criticize President Thein Sein, a former military general, for endorsing policies of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim minority.
Thin Sein said the 800,000 Rohingya population should be put in camps and sent across the border to Bangladesh.
Some analysts say her inaction is politically motivated.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy looks ahead to elections in 2015. They say Suu Kyi fears that expressing support for the Muslim minority could jeopardize her campaign.
The government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas, who it claims are not natives and classifies as illegal migrants, although the Rohingya are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.
The UN says decades of discrimination have left the Rohingyas stateless, with Myanmar implementing restrictions on their movement and withholding land rights, education and public services.
Reports say 650 Rohingya Muslims were killed as of June 28 alone during clashes in the western region of Rakhine. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced.
original report | Fri 27 Jul 2012