Various political powers are shirking responsibility – including the British Government
by EMANUEL STOAKES THE INDEPENDENT
In recent days, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, having just been awarded a prestigious human rights prize by the EU, sat down with the BBC in London and in her beguilingly gentle fashion denied the ethnic cleansing of one of the world’s most vulnerable minorities.
In a manner reminiscent of Burmese President Thein Sein, a master in the art of evasive platitudes, the usually eloquent democracy activist issued a series of slippery answers in response to repeated questions on the issue from journalist Mishal Husain.
Her statements, at times bordering on abject denialism, have already been ably eviscerated by David Blair in the Telegraph.
Suu Kyi’s is a betrayal that will hit the affected Rohingya ethnic minority hard; not least because the group are in desperate need of support from principled politicians, but also because her contentions – which will be taken seriously by many – were as false as they were cowardly.
A compelling body of evidence compiled by rights groups, journalists and academics strongly indicates that the crime she denies is taking place is really happening. Others have gone further: the Toronto based Sentinel Project recently described Burma as “a textbook case” of a nation on the brink of genocide – an analysis apparently shared by specialists in the field.
The Rohingya occupy Rakhine state in west Burma, where their identity is officially denied, well over 100,000 are confined to squalid Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and others subsist in heavily-policed settlements in which discrimination and abuse have been the norm for decades.
Just weeks ago during a visit to one of the IDP camps near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, I was told by former residents of the last remaining Muslim quarter in the nearby city that they had been forced into their new surroundings by government officials. As I have written elsewhere, their accounts contrasted sharply with government claims that they left their old home “voluntarily.”