I AM shocked by the fall from grace of one of the world’s most notable female leaders, Aung San Suu Kyi. I’m sure her fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners now in Bahrain must feel the same.
A damning United Nations report has accused Myanmar’s military command of carrying out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims with “genocidal intent” and calls for the prosecution of the army’s commander-in-chief and five generals for orchestrating the gravest crimes under law.
It also accuses Myanmar’s civilian government of contributing, by its inaction, to the commission of “atrocity crimes”, and singles out Ms Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the government, for criticism.
The report is the most comprehensive inquiry so far into atrocities that have been the bloodiest in Asia since the mass killings by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. At least 10,000 Rohingya civilians have been murdered, and 725,000 driven out of their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state across the border into Bangladesh. The systematic torture and gang rape of women, often in front of their children, have been used, as a “deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorise and punish” the population, with the clear aim of forcing them to flee abroad.
Aid agencies have visited the huge camps set up to try to accommodate the influx into Bangladesh, and have struggled amid the misery and chaos to alleviate the despair of whole villages that have had their homes burnt in Rakhine state, their elderly relatives killed, their women violated and their livelihoods destroyed. Yet the outrage that this should provoke has been largely muted: Western governments are too preoccupied with the influx of migrants into Europe, and the condemnation of Myanmar’s neighbours is conspicuously missing.
The UN report pulls no punches in assigning responsibility. What is striking is its accusation of “genocidal intent”.
The moral disgrace of Ms Suu Kyi is particularly shameful. A former champion of democracy, she was held for some 15 years under house arrest by the Myanmarese junta. Her courage, endurance and dignity won her global respect and earned her the Nobel prize in 1991. On her release she showed political adroitness in working with the junta to dismantle many of its dictatorial measures and gradually guide Myanmar towards participatory democracy. But her evasions, excuses and professions of impotence to halt the military’s sudden and brutal campaign to cleanse northern Myanmar of its Muslim minority are as self-serving as they are repugnant. She, and those working with her in government, have either condoned this anti-Muslim pogrom or heave been too timid to offer any serious resistance to it.
Everything must now be done to get justice for the Rohingya. If the world continues to look away, the sense in global Islam that there is little sympathy for suffering Muslims will only be reinforced.