Myanmar: A Leader Questioned

September 21, 2017

It’s been almost seventy years since Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma, won its independence from the British. However, gaining independence wasn’t pretty—there was a lot of political and ethnic fighting. Myanmar was under military rule until 2011, and it wasn’t until its national election in 2015 that the country shifted from military rule to a majority democracy. Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the democratic movement, and the National League for Democracy party were declared the winners of that election.

Aung San Suu Kyi was given the new position of State Counselor, where she would rule by proxy (or on behalf of the president). It was a victory that Aung San Suu Kyi had been peacefully fighting for for a long time. She was recognized for her work with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and was later put under house arrest for fifteen years for her fight for democracy.

But fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners and heads of states have been questioning her leadership lately. Has she really been working toward peace for everyone in her country? If so, why didn’t she speak up for the approximately 400,000 Rohingya people, or people who are not recognized as citizens of Myanmar but have been living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for generations, who have fled to Bangladesh for fear of how they would be treated if they continued to live in Myanmar? It wasn’t until a few days ago that Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the country (and the world) about the state of the Rohingya people.

By DFID – UK Department for International Development [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
She noted that it’s important to know the real reason why people are fleeing. Is it because of military attacks, or is it something else? Are extremists involved? In Suu Kyi’s address, she invited international diplomats to see for themselves what is actually happening in Rakhine state. Although many citizens of Myanmar supported Aung San Suu Kyi and were satisfied with her response, others were not. Some human rights organizations accused the State Counselor of ignoring the truth—that a specific group of people are being persecuted in her country. Others have accused her of lying.

So what happens now? Only time will tell.