The unforgivable silence of Suu Kyi and the dismay of a Nobel laureate

December 14, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Abu Sufian

The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi is widely known as ‘a democracy hero’ and/or ‘Human Rights Champion’ in her home country Myanmar and beyond. Without a shred of doubt, she contributed to her country and tried to restore democracy over and over again, showing her strong resilience against the military dictatorship.

In doing so, she had to undergo painstaking detention, assassination attempts and 15 years of house arrest, since Suu Kyi returned to Burma in 1988. Therefore, awarding her with the Nobel Peace Prize which is often cited as “the world’s most prestigious prize” is praiseworthy. But winning the Nobel peace prize is certainly not the end of responsibility, rather it magnifies the gravity of a Nobel laureate’s commitment to peace and justice. It is not too much for us to expect from Suu Kyi to uphold the democratic and peaceful values (for which she earned fame internationally) for the rest of her life.


Aung San Suu Kyi receives the Nobel Peace Prize – Markus Screiber/AP


Since the beginning of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya minorities by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar, the world waited for Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out for the marginalized and oppressed ethnic Muslim minority. But SuuKyi shocked and dismayed the world, showing her unwillingness to talk about the issue. Over the last three years, more than 140,000 displaced Rohingyas have been living in inhuman conditions in refugee camps in Myanmar and many other countries where they took shelter after escaping genocide. A large portion of the Rohingya, numbering about 800,000, are spread out across two townships in northern Rakhine state—another region completely blocked off from the outside world by military forces.

In addition, Myanmar’s 1.3 million ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the western state of Rakhine are deprived of citizenship rights; therefore, they are undergoing not only a horrific extermination but also a disgraceful identity crisis rarely witnessed by our post-modern world. As the BBC reported in November this year: John McKissick, head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR in the Bangladeshi border town of Cox’s Bazar, claimed that troops were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into Bangladesh, the neighboring country to Myanmar and very close the Rakhine state.

Despite the constant criticism by international media and human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Suu Kyi chose to remain silent over the Rohingya issue. Her failure to act and speak out against a brutal ethnic cleansing and genocide has raised the eyebrows of those who considered her a ‘Human Rights Champion’. One of the leading online petition websites, started a petition titled ‘Take back Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize’. And as of 19 November 2016, 121,066 people from around the world have signed it. This is a clear reflection of the collective public anger and sheer resentment over Suu Kyi’s role as a leader on the Rohingya issue and her stance as a Nobel peace prize winner.

It is more than sure, as evidence suggests, the Rohingya Muslim community from Myanmar is going through the ‘Final Stages of Genocide’. Indeed, the de facto leader of the country and Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi’s silence and inaction over the continuous killings of Rohingya Muslims in her country is not pardonable. I think it is high time for Suu Kyi to consider handing back the Nobel Prize. Otherwise, the Nobel committee should seriously consider and take the initiative to confiscate the prize as she continuously fails to uphold the peaceful values and speak out for the marginalized Rohingya Muslim community in her country, despite staunch international condemnation over her inexcusable silence. Failing to take back her Nobel prize will further fuel the public doubt and reservation over the integrity of the Nobel peace prize which has undergone severe criticism on a number of occasions in the past.











Abu Sufian

Abu Sufian is a published writer and poet. He has recently earned MA in English Literary Studies at the Department of English Language and Literature, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur. He can be reached at [email protected].


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