Once hailed as the greatest democratic champion, former freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi has since carved a very different image for herself.
Over recent years in particular, the leader of Myanmar has been accused of failing to defend the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority and turning a blind eye to pervasive violence against the group.
Indeed, since 2017, a mass exodus has seen more than 700,000 Rohingya people attempt to cross the borders of Myanmar into Bangladesh from fear of Myanmar military persecution. An undisclosed number of those fleeing were subsequently raped, killed and entire villages were wiped out.
As such, Amnesty International made the decision on Sunday to strip Suu Kyi of the prestigious Human Rights Award which she received in 2009, citing that in her three years as leader she had failed to speak out and had “shielded the security forces from accountability” in what the organisation deemed a “shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for”.
BREAKING: We have withdrawn our highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Aung San Suu Kyi, in light of the Myanmar leader’s shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for. https://t.co/Ag4ndGmVKo pic.twitter.com/9Po3olDmlA
— Amnesty International (@amnestyusa) November 12, 2018
Amnesty’s secretary-general Kumi Naidoo, wrote to Suu Kyi confirming her award would be withdrawn and that the organisation felt “profoundly dismayed” that she no longer represented “a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights”.
Sadly, we can no longer justify this honour and today we are withdrawing the award pic.twitter.com/gYenr0HAYg
— Kumi Naidoo (@kuminaidoo) November 12, 2018
“Our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself,” Naidoo wrote.
“Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities.”
It is not the first accolade to be withdrawn from the controversial leader. In recent years the US Holocaust Museum’s Elie Weisel award and Freedom of the City awards, were rescinded for similar reasons. Sara Bloomfield, director of the Holocaust Museum said their “decision” had not been made “lightly”.
“Based on inspiration that you created for millions around the world, with your long resistance to military dictatorship, and your advocacy for freedom and human rights for all the people of Myanmar, we were honoured to present you with the first Elie Wiesel Award in 2012,” she wrote. “It is with great regret that we are now rescinding that award. We did not take this decision lightly.”
While Suu Kyi has led the government since 2015, she shares power with the country’s generals and has little to no oversight of security forces.