“No, no- it’s not an ethnic cleansing” – stated Burma’s opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi when was asked for her views on the mistreatment of Rohingya Muslims in an interview with BBC Radio 4.
Given the contradictory claims, Suu Kyi’s public denial may not help assuage the fear of the human rights activists across the globe that the Rohingya Muslims fell prey to a state-sponsored racial purification campaign. Rather, Suu Kyi’s interview with the BBC’s Mishal Husain implicitly, if not overtly, revealed her stance on a number of issues. Unfortunately, when the question of the mistreatment of ethnic minorities is raised, her unflinching ideology to uplift the great cause of democracy and humanity seems to be at stake.
On April 22nd New York-based Human Rights Watch published a detailed account in which it accused the Burmese government of conducting a highly orchestrated ethnic cleansing. “The Burmese government engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues [today] through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement,” said Phil Robertson, the watchdog’s Asia deputy-director. Although Suu Kyi remained noncommittal after these claims surfaced, Suu Kyi’s latest comments apparently exposed her bias.
In the BBC interview, Suu Kyi remained in the driver’s seat by labeling the ongoing problem as a “new” one. She added, “This problem arose last year”. Suu Kyi bypassed the root of this ongoing problem which commenced when the ultranationalist military junta amended the constitution in 1982 suspending the citizenship rights of the Rohingya Muslims. Thenceforth, waves of stateless Rohingya Muslims are scattering in the region from Bangladesh to Thailand to Malaysia as they are often the targets of racial hatred and violence. Nonetheless, Suu Kyi coined a brand-new ‘fear theory’ saying, “the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims but also on the side of the Buddhists as well”. She also added, “Muslims have been targeted but also Buddhists have been subjected to violence.”