Sun, Jul 10, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Suu Kyi: A falling star or a beacon of hope?

AP, Naypyidaw

Migrants including Rohingya Muslims sit on a boat on May 20 as they wait to be rescued by Aceh fishermen on the sea off East Aceh, Indonesia.

Photo: AP

For nearly 30 years, Aung San Suu Kyi starred as arguably the world’s most prominent and revered political prisoner, a courageous champion of human rights and democracy in her military-ruled nation.

As she completes her first 100 days in power, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s halo has all but vaporized on the global stage: She is being assailed for ignoring the plight of the oppressed Rohingya Muslims, failing to stop atrocities against other ethnic minorities and abetting moves to erase from collective memory the bloody history of the generals she replaced.

Some have even labeled her a “democratic dictator,” an increasingly aloof one-person show who surrounds herself with close friends and loyalists without nurturing a vitally needed new generation of leaders. Gone are the days when the elegant hostess would charm visitors over informal teas and reduce hard-bitten reporters to voicing soft-ball questions.

Even her supporters find it hard to cite concrete achievements of her government during the 100-day period, which ends this week, except for the freeing of most, but not all, political prisoners and initial efforts to stop rampant land grabs.

However, to the country’s Burman majority, The Lady, as the charismatic 71-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi is affectionately known, remains a beacon of hope, one who will eventually surmount an array of troubles that would buckle the best of leaders — from the world’s longest running insurgencies to abysmal healthcare and China’s rampant exploitation — while somehow breaking the still-powerful grip of the military.

“We should give her 1,000 not 100 days given the legacy of a half century of military oppression. People are still patient, at least the majority of Burmese, but of course, for the ethnics it is different,” said Ye Naing Moe, a prominent journalist and educator.

In an interview, Burmese Minister for Information Pe Myint cited the government’s main achievement to date as progress toward a twofold “national reconciliation” — between civilians and military, the majority Burmese and the ethnic minorities, which make up about 40 percent of the population.

“I believe we are moving in a positive direction,” he said. “The main aim is to build a democratic federal union.”

However, criticism from foreign quarters has been withering, focused on Aung San Suu Kyi’s refusal to act on the Rohingya Muslims, who were driven into squalid camps amid waves of killings in 2012, and continue to flee on perilous sea voyages from a country that denies them citizenship despite historic proof of centuries-long residence.

Meanwhile, the generals continue to wage war against several ethnic groups, who rose up against the central government following Myanmar’s independence from Britain in 1948.

Burma Campaign UK director Mark Farmaner said his group has received more reports of atrocities by the military in Kachin and Shan states in recent months than similar periods last year under the military-dominated government.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last month said that the new government “has the responsibility and opportunity to halt these violations” and called for an end to “discriminatory policies and practices by repealing discriminatory laws.”

A New York Times editorial said “a woman whose name has been synonymous with human rights for a generation has continued an utterly unacceptable policy of the military rulers she succeeded.”

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