RNS: In an article originally published in early 2012 and originally titled “Word power,” Aung San Suu Kyi wrote:
“Words allow us to express our feelings, to record our experiences, to concretise our ideas, to push outwards the frontiers of intellectual exploration. Words can move hearts, words can change perceptions, words can set nations and peoples in powerful motion. Words are an essential part of the expression of our humanness. To curb and shackle freedom of speech and expression is to cripple the basic right to realise our full potential as human beings.”
Yet in Myanmar, one word remains largely off-limits, even to Daw Suu.
“Rohingya” is the self-identity of a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority group in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State. More than 140,000 of the estimated 800,000 to 1.1 million Rohingya were pushed to dire displacement camps in 2012 during regional conflicts. An estimated 100,000 Rohingya have since fled the country to escape violence and persecution.
Myanmar’s government systematically denies Rohingya access to basic public services, education and healthcare. The term “Rohingya” was absent from this year’s landmark census, and most Rohingya have been denied citizenship.