Humairaa Mayet | 13 November 2018 | Image: Amnesty International
As of November 11th 2018, Amnesty International has officially stripped Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, of the ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award. In 2009, Suu Kyi was presented with this honour by Amnesty International after her twenty year long struggle against the oppressive Burmese Junta regime, thirteen of which she spent under house arrest.
Speaking to Salaamedia, Shenilla Mohammed, executive director of Amnesty International South Africa, said that Suu Kyi was “a symbol of hope and courage” in the past. Following her entry into government in 2016, she has been complicit in multiple violations of human rights of the Rohingya people.
Mohammed quoted Suu Kyi’s comments made in 2013 upon receiving the award, stating that Myanmar’s State Counsellor requested that Amnesty International “never take [their] eyes or [their] mind off [Myanmar].” Amnesty International repeatedly attempted to engage with the Myanmar government, yet Suu Kyi refused negotiations and continued to violate the human rights of Burma’s minority population- the Rohingya.
The “Ambassador of Conscience” award is given to individuals who incessantly and tirelessly promote and protect human rights. Other recipients of this award have been iconic human rights activists such as Nelson Mandela, South African president and struggle stalwart; and Mary Robinson, Irish President and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Suu Kyi is the only recipient of the ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award to have it subsequently withdrawn in the wake of her suppression of human rights, as shown in her involvement in the persecution of the Rohingya people.
Her administration has been actively hostile to the Rohingya population in Myanmar. Mohammed claims that members of the National League for Democracy, under the leadership of Suu Kyi, have accused the Rohingya of carrying out acts of terrorism, burning down their own homes, and laying false rape claims. The Burmese state media portrayed the Rohingya people as detestable “thorns that must be pulled out.” These techniques, among other methods utilised by the government of Myanmar, assisted in the dehumanisation of the Rohingya people, not only in Burma but across the world.
Suu Kyi is undoubtedly involved in the oppression and subjugation of the minority Rohingya population. In 2017, she denied that what was taking place was ethnic cleansing, yet as more and more Rohingya were displaced and killed, the occurrences in Myanmar strongly began to resemble what can only be described as ethnic cleansing. While she has not been tried for her crimes in an official capacity, the withdrawal by Amnesty International of her ‘Ambassador of Conscience’ award is a significant event, and may inspire further criticism and condemnation of her tyrannical regime.
By refusing to use her moral authority to speak out against injustice, she has betrayed the morals and values that she once embodied, and has mimicked the system she fought against for twenty years. Since her coming into power, Suu Kyi has had numerous awards from various universities and governments retracted due to her persecution of the Rohingya people.