Canadian rights museum condemns Myanmar leader

Canadian rights museum condemns Myanmar leader
Canadian rights museum condemns Myanmar leader

Reference to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be removed from a display at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and her photo will be dimmed in another, the museum announced Wednesday.

Located in the province of Manitoba’s capital of Winnipeg, the museum’s move is in response to Suu Kyi’s failure to criticize the persecution of minority Muslim Rohingya by the Myanmar military and majority Buddhist population.

The museum’s decision was taken following consultations and calls from several quarters and amounts to censorship of Suu Kyi. It was well received.

“It was a very beautiful moment of relief,” said Raiss Tinmaung, who lives in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and is a representative of the Canadian Rohingya community.

Suu Kyi was once a celebrated defender of human rights, continuing to fight for Myanmar democracy even though as of 2010 she had spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest.

She eventually was permanently released and elected as the de facto leader — state counsellor — of Myanmar in 2015, having garnered many awards for her perseverance in advocating democracy.

Her awards included the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and becoming one of a handful of people who have been made honorary citizens of Canada.

But in 2017, she denied in the face of hard evidence — the rape and murder of the Rohingya and the burning of their villages — that ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas was happening.

But the UN and Canada both said ethnic cleansing was a fact as Rohingya continued to be persecuted and hundreds of thousands fled to refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

At least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published recently, the humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

The museum said the dimming of Suu Kyi’s portrait and a notice informing visitors of the deplorable plight of the Rohingya would help people learn of her actions in failing to condemn the persecution.

“We hope they’ll pause and reflect that she is an honorary Canadian,” said museum spokeswoman Angela Cassie. “That is part of history but that’s not where we stop. We recognize that it’s painful for members of the [Rohingya] community to see her face in this exhibit.”

Canada has long supported the Rohingya through words and financial contributions, to date pledging CAN$300 million over three years in relief.

As well, Canada Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said this week she will bring up the subject of the Rohingya’s plight at a three-day Association of Southeastern Nations-Canada Post-Ministerial Conference beginning Thursday in Singapore.