HOPE of help from Aung San Suu Skyi has run out in the Rohingya community in Malaysia, as they see no viable act coming from the de facto leader of Burma (Myanmar).
“As (a leader), if she tried to do something, things can change. If she is sincere, she can bring change,” says Nurul Amin bin Sirajul Haque, a Rohingya who has been seeking refuge in Malaysia since 2014.
Speaking at a press conference held by MyCare, a non-governmental organisation to announce its aid and mission to Cox’s Bazaar, Nurul Amin also called for Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.
“If she cannot do something for humanity, what’s the value of her Nobel Prize?” the 28-year-old community representative asked.
Ethnic researcher Azizah Kassim told the media other community leaders she spoke to in Malaysia echoed the same sense of hopelessness.
“Most of the leaders I have say they have no hope in Suu Kyi at all,” Azizah said, adding that she has heard demands to revoke her Nobel recognition as a human rights icon as well.
Rohingya asylum-seekers in Malaysia aren’t the only ones critical about Suu Kyi and silence on the persecuted minority’s plight since she took power in 2015. To refugees at the Myanmar-Bangladesh border, Suu Kyi is a “traitor” for going back on her election promises.
These statements join the chorus of cool international response towards Suu Kyi since the escalation of the crisis in late August which saw about half a million Rohingya flee to neighbouring Bangladesh
Dubbed a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing” by a top United Nations human rights official, survivors recall unspeakable terror inflicted on their community, including opening fire on civilians, rape and sexual assault against its women and destruction of villages.
Suu Kyi broke her silence on these attacks two weeks ago amid increasing international pressure for her to condemn the crimes alleged.
In her televised speech at the country’s capital, Naypidaw, Suu Kyi said:
“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state.”
“Action will be taken against all people, regardless of their religion, race and political position, who go against the law of the land and violate human rights,” she said.
This part of her speech was welcomed by the international community. Not so much the parts where she denied there being any clashes or clearance since September 5, nor her welcome of refugees so long as the pass a citizenship “verification” test.
According to a national security adviser for Myanmar, only those with “proof” of citizenship or other form of residence will be allowed to return. Under the complex Burmese citizenship law passed in 1982, however, only members of the of 135 “national races” that supposedly lived within the country’s boundaries before the British invaded in 1824 can claim to be citizens. Rohingyas are not part of the recognised races, effectively rendering them stateless.
Instead, they are referred to as “Bengali”, despite having lived in what is now Myanmar since “time immemorial” according to the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation – even as early as the 8th century.
Azizah describes the condition imposed by Suu Kyi on their return as “strict”, as many do not possess birth certificates as proof.
The 1982 law only accords the most basic level of citizenship (naturalised citizenship) to those with proof that their family has lived in the country since 1948. Such proof was either made unavailable or denied to the Rohingya.
“How can you verify someone who is stateless?” Azizah said.