The Rohingya Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Hypocrisy: Democracy Requires Government to Transcend Racism
Myanmar, formerly the British colony of Burma, and celebrated Noble Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now the de facto civilian leader of Myanmar, have longed captured the attention of global elites. This attention has largely resulted from the efforts of Aung San Suu Kyi and her prolonged status as a political prison. The daughter of Myanmar’s founding father Aung San, and the employee of UN Secretary General U Thant, Aung San Suu Kyi was positioned perfectly to make tiny Burma’s cause a cause for the International Community. After several false transitions, bloody uprisings, and humanitarian disasters, it finally appeared the ruling military junta was ready to secede power in 2008 and embrace democratization.
In 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in Parliament. In 2012, her Party, the National League for Democracy won by a landslide. Although banned from holding the Presidency, due to a xenophobic Constitutional clause that prohibits spouses and parents of foreign citizens from holding the position, Suu Kyi chose to maintain an official role in the democratic government by utilizing Htin Kyaw as a puppet President. Not only has her unwillingness to step aside cost Myanmar true democratic leadership, the ongoing need to appease the military means Myanmar has yet to fully democratize. Aung San Suu Kyi’s propaganda, disinformation-laced speech to the UN revealed the true influence of the military over the ill-democratic government and the ugly side of democracy.
The simple truth is that Aung San Suu Kyi has become a mouthpiece for the military. There is no democracy in Myanmar as long as the military and the likes of Aung San Suu Kyi continue to grasp for power. Myanmar will go the way of many African countries that fell to popular dictatorships when they failed to fully democratized and popular figures refused to give up power. Suu Kyi is not, however, simply pandering to the military by discounting the ongoing plight of the Rohingya, who have faced years of violence and genocide. Suu Kyi is pandering to a majority in Myanmar to solidify her popularity and power, which solidifies the military’s power. Not only is Suu Kyi capitalizing on racist sentiments among the Burmese People, she is condoning the disenfranchisement and persecution of a minority.
Quite frankly, the hypocrisy on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi and her countrymen is thoroughly outrageous. It is also why the Rohingya Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi deserve the scorn of the International Community. When the military brutalized and neglected their “People,” the Burmese turned to the International Community for support. If the Burmese are to be freed and empowered to simply abuse a minority, which has lived in Burma for generations, Myanmar does not deserve the support of the International Community. They do not deserve democracy nor can they truly achieve a democratic society. When one group uses their new found power to disenfranchise another, it is simply a transfer of power from one oppressive group to another, which is what is happening in Myanmar.
Unfortunately, the level of racism on display in Myanmar is not unique. Like the sectarian divisions of the Middle East, which fuel sectarian violence across the region, Asia faces similar racism. Consequently, democracy, when it fails to safeguard minority rights, can feed the oppression of minorities. In these situations, strong, and even oppressive, governments can help protect minorities. Governments that reflect the bigotry of a culture, whether democratic or authoritarian, will always be a threat to minorities, which is the case in Myanmar. In many respects, Myanmar, which features numerous isolated, thoroughly undeveloped communities, highlights the cultural disparities between First World modern democratic cultures and Third World democratizing cultures. To democratize, the cultures of underdeveloped societies will have to evolve to overcome their racism and disenfranchisement of minorities, even if their authoritarian leaders step aside.
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