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Monday, July 1, 2013
A Dangerous Silence
There is no concealing the disappointment felt by many of Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters around the world in the face of her failure to denouncethe attackson Burmese Muslims by members of her own community, the Buddhists who constitute more than 90 per cent of the population.
Perhaps she couldn’t stop it, people say, but at least she could have taken a stand. She is seen as the teacher, the mother of her nation; moral rebirth has been at the centre of her mission ever since she signed up with the democracy movement; her most influential essay was titled A Revolution of the Spirit. How can she possibly stay silent as Muslims are slaughtered?
The first attacks came in June 2012, just as she was embarking on her first trip abroad in 24 years. A young Buddhist woman in Arakan state, which borders the overwhelmingly Muslim nation of Bangladesh in the west, was raped and murdered by two Muslim men. In retaliation, a group of non-Muslim men stopped a bus and killed the Muslims on board, and the spiral of murder quickly got out of control. There were many victims on both sides but the Muslims were in the majority. Many thousand lost their homes and were resettled in squalid temporary camps.
Another, even more serious wave of attacks came in October. Unlike June’s events, these were initiated by the majority community and closely co-ordinated, as a recent investigation by Human Rights Watch explained in detail (http://www.hrw.org/features/burma-ethnic-cleansing-arakan-state). And although there have been no recent attacks as vicious or widespread as October’s, the fire has not burned out. Instead it has spread across the country. And still Suu Kyi holds her tongue.