On Nov. 12, Amnesty International announced that it has rescinded its most prestigious honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of Myanmar. It is the latest in a series of accolades that have been withdrawn from the Nobel laureate this past year, including the Freedom of Edinburgh and Freedom of Newcastle awards. In a press release issued by Amnesty, Suu Kyi was criticized for her “apparent indifference” to the genocide of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya population and her “increasing intolerance to freedom of expression.” Once a symbol of hope for human rights, Suu Kyi is now under the scrutiny of the international community.
“I think that Amnesty International’s decision to withdraw a prestigious award like the Ambassador of Conscience Award helped emphasize the international community’s intolerance for apathy,” said Albert Hong (10), member of the forensics team. “When you think of human rights activists, Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the first people you think of, and when someone as famous as Suu Kyi gets a prestigious award taken away from her, it draws the attention of people across the world. In this case, the issue of the Rohingya is in the international spotlight.”
The persecution of the Rohingya began in late 2016, when the Burmese military began a brutal crackdown of the ethnic minority. According to the United Nations, the Burmese military are guilty of multiple human rights violations, including the murder and rape of thousands of Rohingya, and as a result of this persecution, over 720,000 have sought refuge in Bangladesh. Although Aung San Suu Kyi and the civilian government cannot control the military, Suu Kyi has further exacerbated the genocide. Her administration has continuously dismissed allegations of human rights violations committed by the Burmese military, and has labeled the Rohingya as terrorists.
“A symbol of democracy against authoritarianism, Aung San Suu Kyi was someone who I respected so much growing up, but I have slowly become disgusted by her inability to take action in the Rohingya massacres,” said Jonathan Ames, social studies teacher. “Ultimately, I would like to think that deep down, Suu Kyi had a very challenging decision to make about weighing continued improvement for a Burmese population under an authoritarian government and the protection of a minority ethnic group. But this does not make up for her neglect of the Rohingya minority. ”
Along with her indifference toward the Rohingya genocide, Suu Kyi has also been shown to have suppressed the freedom of expression in Myanmar. Most notably, in 2017, two Reuters journalists were arrested by security forces after reporting on the Rohingya massacres. It is notable that Suu Kyi’s civilian government, rather than the military, was responsible for the arrests. These arrests, along with suppression of information regarding the persecution of the Rohingya by the civilian government have received harsh criticism by Amnesty International.
“I hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will become more transparent about the genocide of the Rohingya and make more efforts toward solving the issue,” said Leonard Lee (11), MUN club member. “If the problem is ever going to be solved, the very existence of the problem must be acknowledged, not dismissed or suppressed.”