Suu Kyi stripped of ‘Freedom of Oxford’ as pressure over Rohingya grows


By Lindsay Murdoch

Bangkok: Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been stripped of an honour in Oxford, England, as criticism of her role in the Rohingya crisis grows across the world.

The removal of the Freedom of Oxford by the city council comes only days after the University of Oxford college Ms Suu Kyi attended as an undergraduate, St Hugh’s, removed a painting of her from public display and placed it in storage.

Ms Suu Kyi lived in the United Kingdom in the 1960s and 70s.

Other organisations are considering withdrawing honours given to the 72-year-old Nobel laureate who has failed to condemn her country’s military for atrocities against persecuted Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, said the BBC’s world affairs editor John Simpson.

“I think it is perfectly natural to look to ways of saying we disapprove utterly of what you are doing,” he said.

The United Nations has described an offensive by Myanmar – backed by vigilante Buddhist mobs – as ethnic cleansing while Human Rights Watch says it amounts to crimes against humanity under international law.

More than half a million Rohingya have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh in the past four weeks, creating a humanitarian emergency in squalid refugee camps.

Oxford Council’s leader Bob Price was quoted by the BBC as saying evidence coming out of the UN meant Ms Suu Kyi was “no longer worthy” of the council’s honour which would be formally taken away at a special meeting in November.

Ms Suu Kyi has deep links to Oxford University where she studied from 1964 to 1967. In 1972 she married the late Michael Aris, a senior research fellow at the university.

Ms Suu Kyi was awarded the Freedom of Oxford in 1997 and received an honorary degree from the university in 2012.

In the latest condemnation, the New York-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation said of Ms Suu Kyi and her ruling National League for Democracy “must acknowledge, condemn and take steps towards preventing future abuses against the Rohingya people.”

“Aung San Suu Kyi has done nothing to stop the persecution of the Rohingya people,” said the council’s president Thor Halvorssen.”If anything her indifference to their plight may have made matters worse.

“It is her responsibility as the leader of the country to put an end to the violence and investigate those gross human rights violations.”

The Australian National University is among many institutions across the world which honoured Ms Suu Kyi as she stood up to Myanmar’s generals during 15 years of house arrest.

She received a standing ovation at she received the ANU’s Doctorate of Letters for her outstanding contributions to the service of society in 2013.

Presenting the honour, then ANU vice chancellor Gareth Evans said Ms Suu Kyi’s “courage, dignity and steely determination have inspired not only her own people but countless others worldwide”.

“Aung San Suu Kyi is a champion of a peaceful path to a better and more just world,” Professor Evans said.

“We recognise you not only as the global icon for democracy you are, but also as a gritty, hands-on politician who brooks nothing – least of all linguistic authoritarianism.”



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