Trip Report 2018
The second half of 2017 saw a dramatic fall in democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi’s international reputation. People were shocked by her inability to control the crisis in Rakhine State. Between August and October more than 660,000 Rohingya Muslims fled across the border to Bangladesh following the Army’s heavy-handed crackdown of what were fairly minor acts of insurgency. The refugees brought with them stories of murder, arson and rape committed by the military, which shocked the world. The US, EU and UN have labelled it “ethnic cleansing”, while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has additionally suggested genocide. While it is generally acknowledged that Suu Kyi has no executive authority over the military it is felt that she should have spoken out on the Rohingya’s behalf.
On our last trip in January 17, as trustees we were aware of people’s disappointment at the rate of reforms. Hopes had been unrealistically high following the landslide election, and Daw Suu’s appointment as State Counsellor in November 2015. On this last trip we found that ordinary people were defensive about the international criticism of their country and the stripping of honours awarded to “Aunty Suu” as she is commonly known. There was also a bewildering lack of sympathy for the cruelty meted out on the ‘Bengalis”. The name Rohingya is forbidden. These unfortunate people have no name, and no rights or ID papers, and have been pushed to and fro from Rakhine State to Bangladesh since the nineteen sixties. The right wing Buddhist nationalist movement led by the controversial monk Wirathu has stirred up a great deal of hatred of Muslims and this can be seen as a conservative backlash against the change that has come swiftly.