United Nations estimating that more than 123,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in less than two weeks to escape persecution. Yet amid a crisis increasingly described as genocide, Myanmar’s state counselor and former Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has remained conspicuously silent.
The Muslim minority group mostly lives in Rakhine state, where they have limited rights and are classified as illegal immigrants rather than citizens. They have long been victims of state-sponsored discrimination and abuse ? including what the U.N. has deemed possible crimes against humanity.
In addition to those who have fled the country, tens of thousands of Rohingya are internally displaced. Security officials have carried out gruesome violence, including killings, rapes and arson, against the Rohingya community in recent days.
CEO of the advocacy group Fortify Rights, Matthew Smith, told NPR that “The brutality is unthinkable, [Myanmar’s security forces] are killing children. They’re killing women. They’re killing the elderly. They’re killing able-bodied men and boys. It’s indiscriminate.”
But Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner and activist during Myanmar’s decades-long military dictatorship, has kept quiet in the face of mounting international pressure to address the unfolding crisis. Her inaction has even stirred discussion of revoking the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 for “her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.”
In a rare interview with the BBC in April, Suu Kyi denied that ethnic cleansing was taking place in Rakhine state, calling it “too strong a term.”
Suu Kyi declared that she wanted to run for president in Myanmar’s 2015 election, but the country’s constitution barred her from doing so because she had married a foreigner and had foreign children. The role of state counselor, which is similar to prime minister, was instead established for her in 2016.
Calls for Suu Kyi to take action have come from concerned parties around the world, including 20-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai.