Suu Kyi's pitch for peace
At a programme last week in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for a 'culture of peace' to end the conflict between communities. The State Counsellor of Myanmar, which is considered to be equivalent to the post of Prime Minister, Suu Kyi is at the centre of international criticism over her country's crackdown on Rohingyas Muslims and the UN has called for a 'genocide investigation' into Rohingyas' killings in Myanmar. "At the basis of conflict is ill-will which seeks to hurt and to destroy and thus to open the way to conflict, which in turn spews out an ever-renewing-cycle of hate and fear, snuffing out the light of peace," Suu Kyi said. To achieve peace and prosperity, she called for cooperation among nations. "Only by promoting a culture of peace in this world of interdependence will it be possible to create harmony between diverse countries and societies," she said. Suu Kyi's advocacy for peace assumes significance in the prevailing Rohingyas refugee crisis wherein at least 7,00,000 Rohingyas living in the refugee camps in Bangladesh have reportedly refused to be repatriated to their homeland in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. As per the understanding reached between the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments, all the Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh will be repatriated to Myanmar and the process should have already begun but the Rohingyas living in Bangladeshi refugee camps have reportedly refused to go back to their homeland, fearing more violent reprisals. Also, the Rohingyas in different shelter homes in Myanmar are reportedly made to live in miserable conditions.
The Myanmar military's crackdown on the Rohingyas that began in August 2017 has already seen thousands of homes of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine province set afire and hundreds killed and raped, resulting in a mass exodus of people from Myanmar to neighbouring countries. Suu Kyi has not denounced the military action against the Rohingyas so far and consequently, she has been at the receiving end of growing international criticism of how the government has remained indifferent and insensitive to the Myanmar military's excesses against the Rohingyas. Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi has taken the world by surprise by remaining quiet about the excesses committed by the Myanmar military, which claims that their action was limited to the terror modules developing among the Rohingya Muslims. So far, more than a million Rohingya Muslims have fled the Rakhine state and taken shelter in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, among other nations. These people have suffered the worst kind of discrimination and reprisal for being a minority community in a country dominated by the Buddhists. The Rohingyas, who were treated as second-rate citizens in Myanmar, were denied even basic rights and any dissent on their part was suppressed with an iron fist. But the manner in which the Myanmar military acted against the Rohingyas last year proved to be the last nail in the coffin as the prosecuted Rohingyas were fully convinced that there was no hope for them in the country. And, soon the unsettling images of poor Rohingyas begging for their lives on overcrowded boats in the sea began to appear in the media. No country was ready to accept them as refugees and people were dying on the boats for want of food, water, and medicine. Soon, they were seen taking treacherous treks to Bangladesh, where they were put up in makeshift camps. Soon, their number swelled to over half a million mark. Now after one year in the camps, the refugees are not interested in returning to their homeland while the condition in the refugee camps is far from satisfactory. The hardening of Myanmar military's stance vis-a-vis Rohingyas came about amid reports of the Rohingya extremists attacking police stations in the Rakhine state. Before this, Rohingyas were accused of killing Buddhist citizens in a barbaric manner such as by beheading. The Myanmar military was so infuriated by these acts of extreme violence that they almost undertook an exercise in ethnic cleansing by indiscriminately killing Rohingya Muslims and destroying their homes and property. There is so much of intolerance against the Rohingyas in Myanmar that no section of the society has condemned the military's action. A couple of media persons who tried to report from the ground zero were put behind the bars on flimsy grounds. The world expected that Suu Kyi would speak against the military action but she too chose to keep mum. In the complex power equations in Myanmar, she is considered to be equivalent to the PM but she does not have control over many important subjects including the military, which is, in fact, a part of the ruling establishment. Suu Kyi making a pitch for peace among communities is a clear hint to the majority Buddhists and the minority Rohingyas that they should learn to live together.