YANGON (AFP) – A man threw a petrol bomb at the lakeside Yangon compound of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday (Feb 1), officials said, a rare attack on a national figurehead who enjoys strong domestic support but has drawn global outcry over her reticence to speak up for the Rohingya.
There was little damage caused by the attack, Kyi Toe, an official from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party wrote in a Facebook posting.
“Nothing was destroyed or burned... Our respected security forces are continuing their work so they can arrest the culprit,” he added.
But the attack is symbolic – Suu Kyi was held for long years at the house by the former junta, occasionally leaning over the famous gates in appearances that galavanised the democracy movement.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay confirmed the attack, without speculating on a possible motive.
But he circulated a photo on his Facebook page of a suspect wearing a pink t-shirt and blue longyi.
The democracy heroine has lost much of her lustre in the eyes of the international community over her perceived failure to speak up on behalf of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled a brutal military crackdown in northern Rakhine state into refugee camps in Bangladesh since August, bringing with them testimony of murder, rape and arson.
US diplomat Bill Richardson was the latest to lambast Suu Kyi last week as he resigned from her panel set up to ease communal tensions in Rakhine.
He decried the Nobel Laureate’s “absence of moral leadership” over the crisis, saying he could not serve on a committee likely only to “whitewash” the causes behind the Rohingya exodus.
But many inside Myanmar regard the Rohingya as illegal “Bengali” immigrants.
Suu Kyi, who swept to power after elections in 2015, is still widely seen as a heroine by the majority-Buddhist population, who fondly dub her “The Lady”.
She was in the capital Naypyidaw at the time of the attack where she addressed Parliament to mark the second anniversary of her NLD government coming to power.
She has so far not commented on the incident.
The attack comes almost exactly a year after the assassination of a top Muslim lawyer and advisor to Suu Kyi.
Ko Ni was shot in the head as he waited outside Yangon airport while holding his grandson.
The murder horrified the Muslim community and the ruling party in particular in a country where political killings are rare.
During the election campaign Suu Kyi’s security was beefed up over fears she could become a target for assassination.
In 2003 a convoy carrying “The Lady” was attacked by a mob as she travelled across the country, an incident widely seen as an attempt by the then dictatorship to assassinate her.