Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of human rights award

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was once a darling of the international human rights community, has been stripped of another pr...

Posted: Mar. 9, 2018 2:22 PM
Updated: Mar. 9, 2018 2:22 PM

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was once a darling of the international human rights community, has been stripped of another prestigious honor over ongoing violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum announced Wednesday it was rescinding Suu Kyi's Elie Wiesel Award, which they presented to her in 2012.

In a letter to the beleaguered leader, museum director Sara Bloomfield insisted they "did not take this decision lightly," but were compelled to act in light of mass displacements and killings attributed to the country's security forces.

While Suu Kyi's political influence in Myanmar is limited under a power sharing agreement with the military, she has been widely criticized for not taking a stronger stand in support of the Rohingya following mass displacements and disproportionate violence, particularly given her global standing.

"As the military's attacks against the Rohingya unfolded in 2016 and 2017, we had hoped that you -- as someone we and many others have celebrated for your commitment to human dignity and universal human rights -- would have done something to condemn and stop the military's brutal campaign and to express solidarity with the targeted Rohingya population," Bloomfield wrote in the letter, posted to the museum's website. Instead, Bloomfield concludes, Suu Kyi's political party "refused to cooperate with United Nations investigators, promulgated hateful rhetoric against the Rohingya community, and denied access to and cracked down on journalists trying to uncover the scope of the crimes in Rakhine State."

In November, Suu Kyi was stripped of the Freedom of the City of Oxford award, which honored her in 1997 for "her opposition to oppression and military rule in Burma." Suu Kyi studied at Oxford University's St Hugh's College as an undergraduate, but her portrait in the college has since been removed.

The Elie Wiesel Award is named for the late Holocaust survivor and author who, like Suu Kyi, is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In her letter to Suu Kyi, Bloomfield closes with a pointed quote from Wiesel: "Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented."

More than 688,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Rakhine State since August. Myanmar's military has repeatedly denied claims it deliberately attacked Rohingya civilians, insisting instead that it is combating a terrorist insurgency in the province.

The US State Department has labeled the violence in Myanmar as ethnic cleansing.

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