Myanmar’s Rohingya population is suffering a genocide. Even the high commissioner for human rights of an ever-diplomatic organization like The United Nations which is not exactly the bastion of human rights with its “lowest common denominator” standards (and that is; even without a veto of US, Russia or Chona) has put it as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The “Clearance Operation” (Myanmar’s much telling official title for this genocide) has so far caused more than 600.000 Rohingya people flee across the borders, thousands killed and many thousands raped.
If this is not horrific enough; it later came out that United Nation’s country team (headed by a Canadian called Renata Lok-Dessallien) became an accessory to the Rohingya genocide allegedly by trying to cover up this genocide. The UN team allegedly tried to prevent rights activists traveling to the area, attempted to shut down public advocacy on the subject and even tried to silence their own staff…
Before anything, if you want to know more about what happened in Myanmar, check this New York Times interactive for a quick coverage of the events there. It is a treat…
A Villain with a Nobel Prize ?
Yet, the person who is at the helm of the criminal organization committing this genocide proudly sports a Nobel “Peace” Prize next to her name. This is not something to be taken as lightly as Barack Obama receiving the same Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama just because he was elected the US president. This is different. Maybe some could still argue that Aung San Suu Kyi was “fighting for democracy” against the military regime of Myanmar when she received the prize. The thing is; she has since then joined the very same military regime in mass killing of Rohingyas.
And yet, she can keep her “Peace Prize” because the “Nobel Foundation has no mechanisms to revoke someone’s prize once it is given”. You see, it is like a law of the nature. It is just so, and cannot be altered…
Sakharov Prize for Human Rights or European Interests?
And then she also has the European Union’s “Sakharov Prize”, or rather the “Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought”. It is named after the scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov who was prosecuted by the Soviet regime due to his political views.
Without risking to look like a Soviet sympathizer, one can say that it was also designed as a Cold War tool against the communist block. But then just after the prize was set up, the Berlin wall came down. Suddenly there was no more “East Block”. First two years were spent by building up a credibility for the prize itself by giving it to people who didn’t really need it: Great people like Nelson Mandela and Alexander Dubček. Afterwards you could say the award found itself a new purpose. For example the one for 2017 has been given to “Democratic opposition in Venezuela”.
Then we also have Aung San Suu Kyi. She got it in 1990. Due to the restrictions imposed by the military rulers of her country, she could not actually take the prize up until 2013. But by then, she was already in very close terms with the very same military which had once prosecuted her. A few years later, she would also defend the genocide by the military. But none of this may really be important for the European Parliament. Maybe it is just that “Europe uses Aung San Suu Kyi as a tool” for her own interests as Samak Sundarave, a former Prime Minister of Thailand once claimed.
To this date, European Parliament has not revoked the “Freedom of Thought” prize from her and the prize site proudly lists Aung San Suu Ky as one of the recipients of the prize.
At least the Indian government’s Nehru Award has some consistency…
Aside from the Nobel Prize and Sakharov Prize, she also gets to keep also a long list of other prizes: Norway’s The Rafto Prize (comically also for human rights), Sweden’s Olof Palme Prize (its website entry describes her as the “iron butterfly”. Indeed Iron she is…) to name a few.
Among all, you could forgive India’a Jawaharlal Nehru Award, as also somewhat dodgy people like Egypt’s past dictator Hosni Mubarak, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and Germany’s Helmut Kohl (remember the rise of the neo-Nazi violance during his reign and Solingen, Mölln massacres?) also received it. At least the Indian government had some consistent criteria in their selection looking at other recipients of the award.
Oxford City did it. Dublin did it after pressure from Bob Geldof
Yet, all is not lost. There are some organizations out there who still believe in “it’s never late to do the right thing”. Albeit sometimes with pressure from activists.
In October 2017, Oxford City Council unanimously decided to withdraw the honour of Freedom of the City, granted to her in 1997. It has been stated that the title was given in recognition of her “long struggle for democracy” and was being withdrawn following evidence emerging from the United Nations which meant that she was “no longer worthy of the honour”.
The Dublin City Council has also stripped Suu Kyi of Freedom of City Award in December, but only after activist musician Bob Geldof returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin award in protest over Suu Kyi also holding it, stating that he does not “wish to be associated in any way with an individual currently engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing, calling Suu Kyi a “handmaiden to genocide”. Although Geldof had stated that would take pride in his award being restored if it is first stripped from Suu Kyi, Dublin City Council decided not to restore his title which is interpreted as a “punishment” for Geldof forcing the Council to have to deal with the Suu Kyi issue.
As for the European Parliament;
One can argue that; letting war criminals keep the awards seemingly designed for good causes, is reminiscent to condoning their actions and in a way being part of their crime, like that Red Cross representative who had “inspected” and praised the treatment of prisoners in WWII Germany. Hopefully European Parliament will see this one day.
Aung San Suu Kyi receiving Sakharov Prize: by Claude TRUONG-NGOC / CC BY-SA – image resized.
Aung San Suu Kyi Sakharov Prize entry: Screenshot from European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize site.