It gets worse and worse for the Rohingya minority in Myanmar as hundreds of thousands of them are being driven away from their homes, and hundreds are dying in the process.
This moment of history also marks the colossal fall from grace for Myanmar state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
According to the latest news and developments from the Asean nation, more than half a million Rohingyas have been forced to cross to the neighboring state of Bangladesh for safety as military operations continue to drive them out of Myanmar. Rohingya is a Muslim ethnic minority in that country living along the border with Bangladesh.
The plight of the Rohingya could not be more horrible. It’s been branded by the United Nations as a textbook example of “ethnic cleansing.”
Bad as the situation is, things have become just as dismal for Aung San Suu Kyi and her leadership. Once hailed internationally as a Nobel laureate and as heroine in her country, she has fallen from grace precipitously. Everyday now brings new embarrassment for the Burmese leader.
The latest evidence of disgrace is the gathering withdrawal of numerous accolades and honors bestowed upon her over the years. Consider:
The Oxford College where Suu Kyi studied as an undergraduate has removed a painting of her from display. The governing body of St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, where she studied politics, philosophy and economics between 1964 and 1967, decided to remove the painting of the Nobel laureate from its main entrance on Thursday, days before the start of the university term and the arrival of new students.
The Aung San Suu Kyi award given by the UK union Unison has been suspended.
“The situation facing the Rohingya of Myanmar is appalling,” Margaret McKee, Unison’s president, said. “Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary membership of Unison has been suspended, and we hope that she responds to international pressure.”
Other British institutions say they are reviewing or removing honors bestowed on Suu Kyi during her campaign for democracy under Myanmar’s oppressive military junta.
Bristol University, one of a string of universities that awarded honorary degrees to the Burmese leader during her time in opposition, also said it was reviewing its award in light of the brutal mistreatment of the Rohingya minority.
The student union of the London School of Economics said it would be stripping the former political prisoner of her honorary presidency.
Over the last 30 years, Suu Kyi has been awarded with honorary degrees from several UK universities, as well as the freedom of several cities, and other honors. And now her world seems to have turned upside down.
As a leader of Myanmar’s opposition, she won international praise and a Nobel peace prize in 1991. Despite being barred from running for President, she won a decisive victory in the country’s 2015 election, and was eventually given a title of state counselor.
However, in recent months she became the object of criticism for her failure to stem the military attacks against the Rohingya.
British Prime Minister Theresa May announced this week that the UK would be suspending the training of the Burmese military by the Ministry of Defense “until this issue is resolved.”
Yet again, in a speech this week, Suu Kyi failed to roundly condemn the military forces, and instead, claimed that there had been “no conflict since 5 September and no clearance operations” against the Rohingya. She has misguidedly invoked a defense of “fake news” and “misinformation” against the flood of criticism against her and Myanmar.
Perhaps worst of all, Amnesty International now accuses Suu Kyi of “victim-blaming.”
That’s how she lost her place on the pedestal, and now her admirers find it painful to believe her silence is part of her never-ending struggle.