Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize for “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.
The Burmese Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the legendary liberation movement leader Aung San. Following studies abroad, she returned home in 1988. From then on, she led the opposition to the military junta that had ruled Burma since 1962. She was one of the founders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and was elected secretary general of the party. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, she opposed all use of violence and called on the military leaders to hand over power to a civilian government. The aim was to establish a democratic society in which the country’s ethnic groups could cooperate in harmony.
In the election in 1990, the NLD won a clear victory, but the generals prevented the legislative assembly from convening. Instead they continued to arrest members of the opposition and refused to release Suu Kyi from house arrest.
The Peace Prize had a significant impact in mobilizing world opinion in favor of Aung San Suu Kyi’s cause. However, she remained under house arrest for almost 15 of the 21 years from her arrest in July 1989 until her release on 13 November 2010, whereupon she was able to resume her political career and put her mark on the rapid democratization of Myanmar.
She is currently the de facto leader of Myanmar (although trying to puzzle out the tangle of factions running that country is not trivial), and representative of the Buddhist majority. A Buddhist majority which is currently active in perpetrating genocide. A Muslim minority, the Rohingya, have been living in Myanmar, and right now they’re being rounded up by the military and murdered.
“They’re killing children,” Matthew Smith, the chief executive of a human rights group called Fortify Rights, told me after interviewing refugees on the Bangladesh border. “In the least, we’re talking about crimes against humanity.”
“My two nephews, their heads were cut off,” one Rohingya survivor told Smith. “One was 6 years old and the other was 9.”
Other accounts describe soldiers throwing infants into a river to drown, and decapitating a grandmother. Hannah Beech, my Times colleague who has provided outstanding coverage from the border, put it this way: “I’ve covered refugee crises before, and this was by far the worst thing that I’ve ever seen.”
Even Buddhists. We tend to think of Buddhism as the nice peaceful religion (we conveniently ignore their history and the oppressive nature of Tibet), but this just goes to show that people with power can be horrible no matter what philosophy they pretend to have.
“We applauded Aung San Suu Kyi when she received her Nobel Prize because she symbolized courage in the face of tyranny,” noted Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Now that she’s in power, she symbolizes cowardly complicity in the deadly tyranny being visited on the Rohingya.”