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.
Tensions in western Burma appear to have cooled a little over the last week but this link to a story from Myanmar Times highlights the difficulties faced by moderates in the debate about the situation facing the Rohingya. Ko Nay Phone Latt is a brave young blogger who raised concerns about the the treatment of the Rohingya and since then has been the subject of some pretty nasty social media attacks.
Hanna Hindstrom also reports on Democratic Voice of Burma about three aid workers being handed jail sentences accused of inciting violence in the Arakan State. Naturally, since it is Burma stories do conflict but many are finding it increasingly difficult to believe anything the Burmese government says about the situation in the region. This point is highlighted by Human Rights Watch’s report ‘The Government Could Have Stopped This’ which you can read here.