human rights

Why Aung San Suu Kyi is silent

wpid-screenshot_2015-06-20-19-27-36.pngHere is my latest column for the New Straits Times about why Aung San Suu Kyi has remained silent about the circumstances of the Muslim Rohingya: Why Aung San Suu Kyi stays silent

 

‘A Politician, Not an Icon: Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence on Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya’

Islam and Christian Muslim RelationsHere is a link to my latest article. Published in the journal Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/AIExfyxdwswI6nJRRBAc/full#.U3yq8CyKCP8

ABSTRACT: In Myanmar (also known as Burma), the Rohingya are a persecuted Muslim minority living mainly in northern Rakhine State. Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of Myanmar’s opposition party the National League for Democracy (NLD), is championed as the voice of the people. However, on the matter of the Rohingya’s persecution she has been notably silent. This article examines the possible reasons for Suu Kyi’s silence and argues that Buddhist–Muslim political relations in Myanmar are central to understanding the reasons behind Suu Kyi’s position on the Rohingya. It is suggested that various factors, including the history of the Rohingya in Myanmar, the NLD’s attitude towards the Rohingya, Suu Kyi’s sense of obligation to her father’s political legacy, and Suu Kyi’s views on ethnicity, are creating a political environment in which Suu Kyi is presented with pragmatic political reasons for staying silent. Given Suu Kyi has the potential to become a future national leader, an understanding of her behaviours towards a sizeable persecuted Muslim minority is important. This is particularly the case when consideration is given to the contemporary pressures on Muslims to embrace radical politics and the implications this could have for Myanmar and the region.

Aussies overseas deserve better support from their government

News reporting that Australian Alexandra ‘Pippi’ Bean feels let down by the Australian government during her ordeal in Libya is both worrying and sadly becoming an increasingly common experience for Australians finding themselves in trouble overseas. The Age article is here.

There was a time when Australian citizens traveling overseas and finding themselves in difficulties could rely on the Australian government for top notch support no matter the cause of the trouble. Support was not withdrawn or limited if the Aussie government assessed they might be guilty of a crime or if they had been involved in activities the Australian government found politically uncomfortable.

Or if their activities caused political embarrassment for the Australian government.

Australians could historically rely on excellent consular support as a right of citizenship. Of course, many still do but others are worried that since the time Julian Assange found himself in trouble overseas Australian government support has become much more arbitrary and politicised.

Guilty or innocent, Assange is an Australian citizen who found himself listening to calls from senior Australian government figures for his Australian passport to be cancelled. Hardly the actions of a government Aussies overseas would feel they could reply on.

Now Pippi Bean says she felt abandoned when Foreign Minister Carr told the ABC’s 7.30 she did not require further assistance. Clearly she did.

Australians deserve better and the federal government needs to lift its game here. It important for the government to listen to the message from citizens like Pippi Bean and genuinely lift their game here – especially at the political level. I’m not criticising Australian diplomats but rather their political masters who set the tone and from whom overseas agencies and governments take their cues about the degree Australia’s government cares about its citizens when they are overseas.

There are many countries who do not seem to care about their citizens’ welfare either at home or abroad – and this means we should never make the assumption overseas governments will assume foreign nationals have the support of their respective governments (Aussies included).

Our government needs to strongly signal to the rest of the world that Aussies in trouble overseas will receive top level diplomatic AND political support. This should be something we take for granted and it should be a policy priority for the millions of Australians who travel overseas annually.

Cambodia and the failure to prosecute Khmer Rouge genocidal monsters

Khmer Rouge victims' skulls

Khmer Rouge victims’ skulls

Cambodia is a country cursed by its history but it seems determined to keep itself mired in government corruption and a failure to prosecute, let alone punish, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime.

I’ve written before about the dreadful situation in Cambodia and recommended people interested in the subject read Joel Brikley’s book ‘Cambodia’s Curse’ but the recent news the UN tribunal (part Australian government funded) designed to prosecute only the Khmer Rouge’s senior figures will not proceed further with the trial of Ieng Thirith is appalling.

Thirith, the sister-in-law of Pol Pot and the regime’s minister for social affairs is accused of crimes that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people but is too ill for the trial to continue.

This leaves just three Khmer Rouge figures facing trial – KR head of state Khieu Samphan, KR foreign minister and Nuon Chea, the KR chief ideologist known as ‘Brother Number 2’. The tribunal has managed just one verdict, to imprison the head of the infamous Tuol Sleng torture centre and prison in Phnom Penh, Kaing Guek Eav known as ‘Duch’.

This is an appalling outcome for a tribunal designed to give the victims of the Khmer Rouge’s murderous communist ideology some justice and allow the country to begin a process of rebirth so Cambodia’s people can more on from their tragic history.
Sadly the tribunal has been subject to much of the same incompetence and corruption seen throughout much of Cambodia’s government apparatus and the consequences are obvious – despite being responsible for the brutal murder of close to one quarter of the population of Cambodia, close to 2 million people – decades after these monsters have been removed from power there has been just one judicial verdict. Its enough to make you sick.

And Australia’s government, who is part-funding this charade should be asking serious questions about how this UN endorsed tribunal can be working so slowly that it appears to be almost trying NOT to reach verdicts until the accused are so old or frail that their trials must be stopped.

Remember, all the Khmer Rouge leaders on trial are in their 80s. This is very old by Cambodian standards but let’s face it, they all had access to better food and healthcare than just about every other Cambodian during the country’s worst times. And these evil people were the one’s pointing the guns and creating the twisted ideology.

You can read the details of the tribunal’s decision to release the Khmer Rouge’s ‘first lady’ in The Age here but you will probably wish you hadn’t.