Columns, Opinion

Miss Leading: The Rohingyas deserve human rights

Stateless, identity-less and unprotected. The Rohingyas have lived like this for centuries now.

They have been protected by neither the Myanmar government nor the governments of the surrounding nations. Rather, they have been left as refugees in their own country, and the only person to blame right now is Aung San Suu Kyi — Myanmar’s de facto leader. She claims the Rohingyas aren’t a valid ethnic group of Myanmar because of their difference of religion (she is Buddhist, they are Muslim). Because of this, she has denied citizenship to these people.

To tell you that this is one of the biggest violations of human rights on Earth, I would first have to give you a brief history of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Rohingyas. In 2015, after 50 years of being ruled by military dictatorship, Aung San Suu Kyi became the de facto leader of Myanmar, a country in Asia that borders Bangladesh. However, the military does not recognize her as the leader, and in fact, have not given her the official title of president either. Because of this, Chancellor Suu Kyi has virtually no control of what the military does.

As Myanmar’s longtime human rights icon, it would only make sense to ask Chancellor Suu Kyi where her morals have gone in regards to her treatment of the Rohingyas. Upon taking office, she repeated the words that her father once spoke to the Burmese people: “Our country is thirsty for peace.” However, her actions have certainly proved otherwise. But I’d argue that she isn’t the only one to blame.

We have to consider the decisions of the military as well. The militia is trying to prove that Suu Kyi is incompetent in her abilities to make decisive laws to protect the Burmese people, and so far, I think they’re succeeding in their efforts. The thing is, I don’t think it’s completely her fault. Sure, she definitely has a strong influence as the leader of this country, but on the other hand, she is absolutely powerless with the military continuing to act without her consultation or consent.

Perhaps most interesting is the shifting effect that Suu Kyi has had on the Rakhine State. The Rohingyas looked up to her in the late 80s and 90s as a human rights icon. Unfortunately, when the military dictatorship came to power, the Buddhist military looked down on Muslim Rohingyas with disdain. Now, close to 400,000 Rohingyas have been pushed to Bangladesh, where they are also not wanted.

And it’s not safe for the people who have stayed in Rakhine either. There have been reports of rape, murder and the destruction of entire villages. There is an ever-increasing amount of hate in the region. When the military was in power, it became common for disgusting comments to be made on social media. The absolutely appalling thing is now that Suu Kyi’s civilian government is in power, she legitimizes those ignorant comments by saying the same things. For example, Burmese officials have blown off reports of mass rape by posting things on social media like, “Rohingya women were too filthy.”

When the people of a state have given a leader nothing but loyalty and support, it’s quite disturbing when the leader does nothing to protect them, or to condemn the very people who harass and harm them.

It is telling when a leader has abandoned her duty to protect the very thing that she has stood by her entire life — protecting human rights. There is no easy solution to this, and the United Nations definitely has a lot to consider in trying to find an answer, but the priority should first and foremost be the lives of the Rohingyas.

In displacing, disregarding and forcefully disrobing the Rohingyas, Suu Kyi has proven herself as one of the worst enemies of human rights in the last few years.

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