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Suu Kyi Faces Growing Criticism

by Joshua Kurlantzick
December 26, 2013

Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she leads a news conference at the foreign ministry in Rome on October 28, 2013. (Max Rossi/Courtesy Reuters) Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she leads a news conference at the foreign ministry in Rome on October 28, 2013. (Max Rossi/Courtesy Reuters)

Just a short blog item to think about over your holiday season; Asia Unbound will be back in force in the new year.

Over the past two years, as Buddhist-Muslim violence in Myanmar has spread from western Arakan/Rakhine State to other areas across the country, few leading Burman Buddhist politicians have been willing to criticize the Buddhist paramilitary groups responsible for starting most of the violence. President Thein Sein, to his credit, has on occasion condemned the violence, though his government has done little to address the root causes of the unrest. But Aung San Suu Kyi has, over the past two years, been even more reticent to comment on the unrest than Thein Sein or other top government officials.

Until recently, Suu Kyi’s reluctance to condemn the attacks on Muslims—she even, in an interview in the fall, seemed to condone the ethnic cleansing attacks by vaguely referring in an interview to “global Muslim power”—did little to tarnish her reputation internationally as an icon of democracy and human rights.  She has continued to travel the world, receiving various awards from governments, foundations, and other institutions.

But in the past two months, the world finally seems to have realized that Suu Kyi, now a politician and a declared candidate for president in 2015, is acting more and more like a politician—and abandoning much of the moral firmness that made her so respected and beloved. This recent long article in the Washington Post on Suu Kyi’s unwillingness to condemn the ethnic cleansing, a stance that is surely popular with her core Burman Buddhist community, is indicative of how opinion about her is changing.  The Post’s piece actually takes it easy on Suu Kyi, compared to some other recent articles in British, American, and other Western media outlets.

Happy holidays to all our readers.

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