Is Suu Kyi to blame for Rakhine violence?

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/10 23:23:39

After the turbulence in Myanmar's Rakhine State on August 25 when Rohingya militants attacked police posts and killed 12 security officers, Myanmar's army and police intensified "clearance operations" against "terrorists." In the two weeks thereafter, about 270,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh, the UN refugee agency said Friday.

The Western world and Islamic countries have condemned the Myanmar government while some religious leaders also sided with the Rohingya. The situation has become a stain on Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's image with mounting criticism from the Western media. The West has showed more disappointment with her than ever since she became leader of the country.

The experiences of developing countries show that once large-scale ethnic conflicts take place, they will easily spiral out of control and lead to the tragedy of the slaughter of ethnic minorities and mass fleeing. The Western and Islamic world considers what is happening in Myanmar is ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi, who used to be deemed a fighter for democracy by the West, is held up by many as a modern day saint. But after her National League for Democracy (NLD) took power, they have not performed as the West envisaged. She has to take pragmatic measures or even make compromises in face of development conundrums and ethnic issues, rather than make it a priority to protect her image.

Given Suu Kyi's friendly ties with the Chinese government, the China-Myanmar relationship has improved after her taking office. This has put a damper on many Western elites and made them feel their previous support of her was in vain. In fact, whether leaders of China's neighboring countries are close to Beijing or not has become a measure for some in the West to judge their relations.

Apart from the Burman making up 65 percent of the Myanmese population, the country has over 130 ethnic groups, many of whom are armed. This has posed a long-term challenge to Myanmar's social stability and national unity. Although the junta is no longer governing, the military still plays a special role in Myanmar's politics. It's fair to say that Myanmar is a heaven for saints who rebel and a graveyard for those who govern. It is a humanitarian disaster that hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Rakhine fled to Bangladesh. But avoiding such a disaster is actually harder than Western critics consider, given Myanmar's reality.

Suu Kyi must have evaluated Myanmar's current political climate and chose not to condemn the "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" as the West hopes to see. In a country with a vulnerable legal system, once conflicts take place, mainstream opinion will be predominantly nationalistic, leaving little room for Suu Kyi to speak out for the Rohingya.

In the face of basic democratic development in social and economic fronts, Myanmar's human rights reality is unlikely to be in line with the Western concept. Neither does Suu Kyi's halo comply with her governing. This mismatch is not her fault, but of the arrogant West that has used her as an example for their so-called universal values regardless of others' opinions.

Suu Kyi is one of the developing world leaders that can easily engage in dialogue with the West. The outside world should help Myanmar resolve the sharp confrontation in Rakhine and realize national reconciliation to the utmost. The bottom line is that ethnic conflict in Rakhine should stop, the Muslims there should have their rights protected and the rule of law in Myanmar should be supported.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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