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Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the International Labour Organization Conference in Geneva in June 2012 / photo: un.org

Amnesty International revokes Aung San Suu Kyi’s Ambassador of Conscience Award

Amnesty International has withdrawn the Ambassador of Conscience Award, its highest award, from Aung San Suu Kyi. The organisation cited the ‘shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for’ as the reason for the withdrawal.

“Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights”, said Secretary General of Amnesty International, Kumi Naidoo in a letter to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Suu Kyi, halfway through her term in office and eight years after her release from house arrest, has remained mostly silent and eeriely indifferent to the atrocities being committed to the Muslim minority Rohingya people by the Myanmar military.

“As an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself,” wrote Kumi Naidoo.

As such, Amnesty International says it can no longer justify her continued status as a recipient of their highest honour.

The organisation has in fact been repeatedly vocal and critical of Myanmars de facto leader and her administration about the human rights violations and horrific actions against the Rohingya population who have lived in a state of segregation and discrimination amounting to apartheid. Last year, Myanmar security forces killed thousands of people, tortured men and boys, raped women and girls, and burned hundreds of homes to the ground resulting in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya feeling to Bangladesh for refuge.

In August, the UN called for senior Myanmar military officials to be investigated and prosecuted in international court for the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  The UN named the commander in chief of the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) Min Aung Hlaing and five other commanders.

The international communities – both NGOs and the public – have been surprised by Suu Kyi’s silent over the Rohingya problem. Though the civilian government of Myanmar has no control over the military, Suu Kyi has shielded the security forces by dismissing and downplaying allegations of human rights violations and has even obstructed international investigations into the abuses.

Her administration has labelled the Rohingya as “terrorists” while the state media have continued to publish inflammatory and dehumanizing articles about the Rohingya people, describing them as ‘thorns’ that must be pulled out.

“Her denial of the gravity and scale of the atrocities means there is little prospect of the situation improving for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in limbo in Bangladesh or for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State. Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities,” said Amnesty International.