Steve Cardownie: Aung San Suu Kyi’s not fit to be linked with our city

Aung San Suu Kyi has faced condemnation over Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya people. Picture: AP
Aung San Suu Kyi has faced condemnation over Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya people. Picture: AP
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In my column of January 23 under the headline “ is Suu Kyi worthy of our city’s top honour?” I wrote that the Lord Provost, Frank Ross, had written to Aung San Suu Kyi the previous November condemning the violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar forcing approximately 700,000 Rohingya people to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape slaughter and persecution at the hands of the military.

As State Counsellor in Myanmar (prime minister status) Suu Kyi had failed to condemn the violence nor did she appear to be doing anything to halt it, posing questions about her commitment to peace, particularly when it came to dealing with the Muslim minority in her own country. In his letter Frank asked Suu Kyi to use her “immeasurable moral courage and influence” to facilitate the intervention of the United Nations to ensure a safe return of the Rohingya people.

In the absence of a reply to his letter I asked: “Why does a councillor not call for a report to help determine whether or not Edinburgh should follow Oxford’s and Dublin’s example? Or will complacency hold sway?”

READ MORE: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be stripped of freedom of Edinburgh

Well, it appears that complacency did hold sway – that is until now at any rate as Frank, who still hasn’t had a reply, has tabled a motion to tomorrow’s full council meeting seeking to follow the example set by the aforementioned cities and withdraw the Freedom of the City Award that was bestowed on Suu Kyi by the council, only the second time that the award has been revoked in 210 years.

The deplorable situation in Rakhine cannot be understated – Human Rights Watch noted that the bloody military crackdown had left “thousands” of Rohingya Muslims dead, with others raped and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes.

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders said that its field survey had found at least 6700 Rohingya Muslims were killed in the space of two months last year, which included at least 730 children under the age of five. The organisation reported that of that number of children 59 per cent were shot, 15 per cent were burnt to death in their homes, seven per cent were beaten to death and two per cent were killed by land mine blasts. The cause of death of the remainder is undetermined. Doctors Without Borders said that the number of deaths is likely to be an underestimate “as we have not surveyed all refugee resettlements in Bangladesh and because the surveys don’t account for the families who never made it out of Burma [Myanmar].”

So, given that Suu Kyi has remained silent when her army has embarked upon a programme of “ethnic cleansing”, according to the UN, it is entirely fitting that the Freedom of the City award be rescinded and that Edinburgh’s name will no longer be officially linked with Aung San Suu Kyi.

That honour should only be bestowed on those who merit it and Suu Kyi no longer falls into that category.