Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Her Country in Violence

Starting a few weeks ago, in Myanmar (aka Burma), a Buddhist-majority country in Southern Asia, the military has been slaughtering the Rohingya Muslim minority. They are being violently attacked, raped, and killed by Myanmar soldiers and are forced to flee to the neighboring country of Bangladesh. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar and the chief apologist for this ethnic cleansing, is being blamed for remaining silent to this violence.

Suu Kyi had once been under house arrest for 15 of 21years, from 1989 to 2010, for various political reasons. On the other hand, she has also won various peace awards when she was both under and out of house arrest, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”; the presidential medal of freedom in 2000, awarded by President Bill Clinton; and the congressional gold medal in 2008, given by President George Bush. Suu Kyi was known for her benevolence and strong striving for freedom. She was the hope of the world when elected as the leader of Myanmar.

Suu Kyi does not control the Myanmar military, so she can’t organize the ethnic cleansing directly. However, she should also be held responsible for this action in her country. According to the media, she continues to deny this ongoing violence and closes the topic in every conference or interview. The slaughter has gone far beyond control, and some even claim that the brutality of the event is already enough to qualify it as genocide.

“The Buddhists are killing us with bullets,” said Noor Symon, a Rohingya Muslim woman carrying her son. “They burned houses and tried to shoot us. They killed my husband by bullet.”

“My two nephews, their heads were cut off,” one Rohingya survivor told the reporter. “One was 6 years old and the other was 9.”

The Myanmar soldiers are also throwing infants into rivers to drown. “I’ve covered refugee crises before, and this was by far the worst thing that I’ve ever seen,” said Hannah Beech, a New York Times reporter.

The earliest presence of Rohingya in Myanmar can be dated back to the 12th century, but most of them started to come to Myanmar in the 17th century, when Myanmar was under the rule of Britain. The colonial policy at the time encouraged migrant laborers to come to the country in order to increase cultivation and profits, and as a result a huge group of Rohingya Muslims entered Myanmar. The British had also promised the Rohingya a separate land as “Muslim National Area.” However, after Myanmar’s independence from Britain, violence and chaos broke out among various ethnic groups. When the Rohingya asked for their promised land, the Myanmar officials rejected them and denied them citizenship.

Through the years, the conflicts between the Rohingya Muslims and the people of Myanmar have become more and more intense. The Rohingya have demanded their citizenship multiple times, but the only response from the Myanmar army is violence and torture. Being called illegal foreigners, they had their businesses taken away and were deprived of health services, education, and employment. The government even restricted each couple from having more than two children. Without citizenship or any legal identity, they are not entitled to any rights or legal protection from the government. This latest slaughter began when a Rohingya group attacked a Myanmar police station on August 25th. They were called terrorists and are now persecuted in Myanmar under the title of “counterterrorism.”

The Rohingya Muslims have become one of the world’s most persecuted groups without doing anything wrong in the first place. The fierce violence of the Myanmar soldiers has caused many people to lose their hopes, their precious homes and families, and even their lives. A severe genocide is happening in Myanmar right at this moment, but so far, the leader of the country Suu Kyi has done nothing to stop it. The public wants her Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked, but there is no such mechanism for revoking a Nobel prize, at least for now.

Personally, I do wish she would keep her word of bringing peace to the world, whether as an honorable Nobel Prize winner or a political leader struggling with power, and follow through. “Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.” — from Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in 2012.