STATE Counsellor of Burma (Myanmar) Aung San Suu Kyi could be guilty of crimes against humanity for her failure to prevent atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, a former United Nations Special Envoy has said.
Professor Yanghee Lee – who is now barred from entering the country after public criticism of Suu Kyi’s government over the Rohingya crisis – told British broadcaster Channel 4 in an interview that the defacto leader would have to be held accountable for a situation with the “hallmarks of a genocide”.
Amid growing calls from rights groups to refer Burmese leaders to the International Criminal Court, Lee was asked if Suu Kyi could be tried for crimes against humanity or genocide. “Absolutely … I’m afraid so,” she said. “[Suu Kyi] can’t be not accountable. Complicity is also a part of accountability.”
The International Organisation for Migration has reported that at least 688,000 people have fled Rakhine State into Cox’s Bazar since Aug 25 amid so-called “clearing operations” by Burma’s Tatmadaw army. The military stands accused of mass killings, rape and arson in Muslim villages.
A Nobel laureate and former icon of democracy in Asia, Suu Kyi has attracted widespread condemnation for a failure to prevent alleged atrocities against Rohingya people. She is responsible in terms of “complicity, or neglecting to do anything about it, or halting this,” said Lee.
“She was never a goddess of human rights … she is a politician,” the former UN envoy and professor at South Korea’s Sungkyunwan University added.
Asked if she had “had this out” over accusations of rape, murder and other atrocities with Suu Kyi, Lee said “yes”. “I think that she’s either denying or she is really far removed,” Lee added. “She has been a role model for everyone, me included. It is really disappointing.”
Lee joins a growing list of high-profile critics of Suu Kyi over her handling of violence in the Rakhine. Former New Mexico Governor and a friend of Suu Kyi’s, Bill Richardson, recently stepped down from the Advisory Board on Rakhine State over a lack of leadership on the Rohingya issue.
Richardson wrote in a TIME magazine op-ed on Thursday that Suu Kyi “has shown neither an understanding of the seriousness of the challenges her country faces, nor the political will to meaningfully address the Rakhine crisis.”
“While the military and, to a lesser extent, Rohingya militants as well as some Rakhine are to blame for the violence, it is becoming increasingly clear that Aung San Suu Kyi is part of the problem,” he said.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was in Burma two weeks ago, using a meeting with Suu Kyi to call for an independent investigation into human rights abuses in Rakhine State.