Suu Kyi’s performance yesterday in her first address to the international community in the wake of her government’s recent ethnic cleansing in Rakhine was nothing less than breathtaking.
A more dignified “fuck you” has likely never been delivered to so many by someone so small.
Not only did she not admit to any sin of omission on her part for not speaking out against the flagrant human rights abuses being committed by soldiers and local people (very likely as she spoke), but neither did she offer any criticism of any aspect of the way the military has conducted itself.
On the contrary, she had nothing but praise for the way her government has improved things in Myanmar.
She managed to find a way to use a 50% decrease in AIDS deaths (a figure reported last year related to the period 2010-2016 and therefore having nothing to do with her administration) as a metaphorical illustration of how ignoring specific problems– like hundreds of thousands of her people fleeing rape, arson and murder– while attending to general improvements in social programs like health care and education is a more efficient and rational approach to such problems as ethnic cleansing.
Like I said, breathtaking.
She doubled down on every bit of political doublespeak she has resorted to since crowning herself Khaleesi to avoid saying directly that she either supports the ethnic cleansing of “Muslims residing in Rakhine” or is utterly indifferent to the suffering being visited daily on hundreds of thousands of Rohingya:
- Rakhine Muslims are not the only ethnic minority in the state whose needs the government must attend to.
- Terrorism must be dealt with.
- Everyone has problems. Everybody hurts. We should all care about the pain and suffering of all, not just those “Muslims residing in Rakhine”.
- There is false news out there and we need evidence. Foreign journalists must be wary of spreading misinformation.
And on and on. The bottom line: “I have heard your criticisms and I reject them.”
In a number of instances, Suu Kyi simply lied.
She claimed there had been no clearances or fighting since September 5th. Journalists taken on a tour of the area after that date reported fresh fires and the sounds of guns near to where they were.
She claimed that all ethnicities had equal access to health care and education in Rakhine. The Rohingya are denied not only access to health care and education but many are living in what some have described as concentration camps, and have limited travel rights even when living “off the reservation”.
Somewhere in that grand flatfooted rhetorical gesture that she performed in front of a global audience yesterday, she made a claim about rule of law and equality before the law that would have been hilarious if it weren’t for the mountain of corpses and charred remains of villages smoldering in the wake of soldiers and citizens whose impunity has been established and reiterated many times over the past 5 years and which is essentially an element of Myanmar culture at this point.
It will be interesting to see how this firmly delivered “giving of the finger” to the media and the NGOs that created “The Lady” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi “Democracy Icon” is spun by her international enablers, given the audacity of her performance.
Repressive laws that discourage free speech in Myanmar plus a tendency on the part of journalists in SE Asia to temper their own speech in order to retain access and keep their jobs may have the predictable effect of softening Suu Kyi’s blunt rejection of liberal internationalism in the eyes of the international audience. We will have to see.
One problem, of course, is that as long as a country like Thailand continues to present an easy target like a “Junta” for SE Asia pundits to take aim at, it won’t matter how many Rohingya die or how many lives are devastated, the simple fact of Myanmar having held an election to put Khaleesi on her throne will be used as a handy screen for all the investment pouring into what has been called Asia’s “last frontier”.
“Democracy”, as Suu Kyi and the generals well know, works as well as Dragons when it comes to legitimizing and sanitizing all sorts of things that liberals might otherwise find beyond the pale.