NOT long ago, the mention of Aung San Suu Kyi conjures ideas of courage, bravery, grace and dignity in the face of almighty adversity.
The myth, the woman became a shining beacon of hope, not just for Burma, but for the world. As a collective, we looked upon her as an inspiration to us all, someone who taught us the value of freedom.
She was almost unique in her ability to stir this sentiment across national borders and political ideals. These days, such feelings towards our political leaders are almost unheard of. In a sea of corruption and self-interest, Suu Kyi stood out as a selfless champion of the people.
Perhaps it was unrealistic to pin the hopes of a nation on one woman. Indeed, it seems many still do. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson this week, while praising her as “one of the most inspiring figures of our age”, called on Suu Kyi to “use all her remarkable qualities to unite her country, to stop the violence and to end the prejudice.”
Her ordeal was, indeed, inspiring. The cruelties she suffered at the hands of the military junta, the isolation, the physical attacks and the curtailing of her family life will not be forgotten.
But while the suffering she went through in her campaign for democracy cannot be denied, neither can that of the Rohingya people.
The brutality of what is happening in northern Rakhine state is gallingly inhuman. With the barrage of headlines surrounding the issue, it is easy to lose sight of the scale and ferocity of the human tragedy occurring in the region.
A UN report released in February details the horrific treatment of the Rohingya people. It documents execution-style killings, mothers beaten to death in front of their children, homes set alight with families locked inside, newborn babies stomped to death, the gang rape of young girls, and elderly people beaten and set on fire.
This report was released six months prior to the upsurge in violence we are witnessing now.
As we find ourselves facing the reality of mass displacement, burning villages and the ethnic cleansing of a whole group of people, you have to wonder, what has happened to Suu Kyi’s thirst for freedom and justice?
People have been deploring her silence on the issue. Her failure to condemn the violence against the Rohingya has been deafening. But it is not just her silence that is the problem anymore.
Suu Kyi has been actively fuelling the flames of religious and ethnic tensions in the region. Blaming the “insurgents” for the devastation in interviews, shielding the armed forces from blame, allowing inflammatory and divisive rhetoric to appear on social media, refusing to acknowledge the citizenship of an entire ethnic group, and deplorably insinuating that international aid agencies are supporting terrorism.
We are past the point at which we can continue to look at Suu Kyi’s noble past as some sort of apology for her behaviour today. Her campaign for freedom that resonated so profoundly around the world loses its shine as we begin to realise that freedom so tirelessly won was not meant for all, but only for those she deemed worthy.
It’s time for us to let go of the beacon of hope ideology we so desperately clung to. We have to stop looking to her for a solution and acknowledge she has now become the problem.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent