Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being accused of hypocrisy for refusing to take sides in the ongoing persecution of minority Muslim Rohingyas by majority Buddhist Burmans in the country’s northwestern Rakhine state. Chided by a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation this past weekend for not using her status as a prodemocracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate to condemn the persecution, Suu Kyi refused to budge.
“I know that people want me to take one side or the other, so both sides are displeased because I will not take a stand with them,” she said.
Media and politicians in Muslim countries have been especially quick to accuse Suu Kyi of hypocrisy.
The Organization of Islamic Co-operation has labelled events in Rakhine state “a form of ethnic cleansing.”
The organization’s foreign ministers will meet in Djibouti next week to put together a program of aid and international political pressure on behalf of the Rohingyas.
The common excuse given by Burmese for persecuting the Rohingyas is that they are aliens imported as labourers by the British from what was Bengal, now Bangladesh.
The truth is a good deal more complex. What is now Rakh-ine state has been a point of friction between the people of South Asia – including the Rohingyas and their ancestors – and the Malay peoples of Southeast Asia for well over 1,000 years.
Rakhine, then called Arakan, was a predominantly Rohingya state within Bengal until 1784 when the army of Burmese king Budapawa invaded and seized the territory.
Many of the Rohingya fled, but returned after the British conquered Burma in 1824.
Since then, there have been countless attempts by the Bur-mans to expel or otherwise remove them.