The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington has taken back a top human rights prize it had awarded Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, over her failure to condemn the military’s “brutal campaign” against Rohingya Muslims, the museum announced Wednesday.
The one-time democracy icon has recently faced widespread international condemnation over Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya population, dubbed “ethnic cleansing” by the UN and the US.
Suu Kyi was awarded the Elie Wiesel Award in 2012 in recognition of her “long resistance to military dictatorship” and “advocacy for freedom and human rights for all the people of Myanmar,” the museum said in a letter addressed to Suu Kyi posted on its website.
“We had hoped that you – as someone we and many others have celebrated for your commitment to human dignity and universal human rights-would have done something to condemn and stop the military’s brutal campaign and to express solidarity with the targeted Rohingya population,” the letter continued.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh after Myanmar’s military launched an offensive against suspected Rohingya militants in northern Rakhine State on August 25.
The prize has been awarded annually since 2011. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the recipient of the prize in 2017.
Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her decades-long fight for democracy in Myanmar, but there have been calls to strip her of the title in recent months.
The Rohingya population have long been denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The minority Muslim population are often referred to as “Bengalis” in Myanmar to imply they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The Myanmar military has denied accusations of rights abuses including extrajudicial killings and sexually abusing and raping women since they started “clearance operations” in August.
Despite Myanmar’s government saying they are ready to repatriate Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh, UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Wednesday his office has been gathering reports that “point to the continuation of ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine state.
Zeid called for UN efforts to prosecute those who are responsible for the suspected genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.
The violence has developed from the “frenzied blood-letting and mass rape of last year to a lower intensity campaign of terror and forced starvation” to force the Rohingya population out, Andrew Gilmour, the UN’s assistant secretary general for human rights, said Tuesday after a recent visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh.