Time for Aung San Suu Kyi to address repression of Rohingyas: The Statesman

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (left) delivering a speech during a luncheon organised by Japanese business and economic associations in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov 4, 2016.
Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (left) delivering a speech during a luncheon organised by Japanese business and economic associations in Tokyo, Japan, on Nov 4, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on Nov 4, the paper highlights the renewed upsurge of the persecuted Rohingyas which poses the gravest challenge for her and the government.

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi must be acutely aware that the irony is bitter for Myanmar's new dispensation that she heads as state counsellor, though not as President.

Any benefits, diplomatic or in terms of aid and investment, that might be expected from her current visit to Japan, will almost certainly be neutralised by the renewed upsurge of the persecuted Rohingyas.

Indeed, the persecution is reported to have been stepped up against this Muslim minority segment - nowhere men who wander along Myanmar's border with Bangladesh.

The grandstanding in Tokyo, in the presence of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is bound to be overshadowed by the almost relentless sectarian strife in her own backyard.

The current upsurge poses the gravest challenge that she and her administration have countenanced over the past six months.

Arguably, the minorities of Rakhine province might be desperately anxious to convey a message to Naypidaw, the seat of government.

Specifically, Suu Kyi's response to their plight was remarkably muted even at the height of persecution.

Her anxiety not to rock the junta boat before the national elections has made the crisis worse confounded, an exercise in specious reasoning that has cut no ice across the world at large.

Small wonder that the US State Department has recently expressed its concern over the reported rape of the Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities.

In real terms, she was impervious to the persecution as she geared up for the elections and eventual assumption of authority.

In power, the withers of the state counsellor remain ever so unwrung.

And this indifference towards human rights and suffering - under a theoretically democratic regime - appears to have emboldened the military to crack down on the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine with brutal severity.

On closer reflection, there has been little or no change in their condition, post the transition from a military to a civilian dispensation.

Indeed, the soldiers have been accused of rape and murder during the renewed bout of persecution, which somehow coincides with Suu Kyi's visit to Japan.

It was imperative for the leader to have showcased a stable and peaceful Myanmar during her interactions in Tokyo. Far from it.

On the contrary, the ethnic violence and the military persecution - reminiscent of the heyday of the junta - arguably makes the investment climate direly uncertain, specifically the country's feasibility as an overseas investment destination.

More so in the context of Japan which is eager to address Myanmar's development needs and reconstruct its shattered infrastructure.

Five decades of economic disorder under a military dictatorship has taken its toll... with roads, electricity, and connectivity shattered.

Furthermore, Japan had never imposed trade and fiscal sanctions against the country and has a notable presence in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone.

Myanmar has failed to put its best foot forward.

* The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.