Amnesty strips Suu Kyi of its top prize

Myanmar"s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi departs after her speech at the ASEAN Business and Investment SummitImage copyright
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Aung San Suu Kyi, seen here at a business summit in Singapore on Monday

Amnesty International is stripping Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award.

The politician and Nobel peace prize winner received the honour in 2009, when she was living under house arrest.

The rights group said it was profoundly dismayed at her failure to speak out for the Rohingya minority, some 700,000 of whom have fled a military crackdown.

This is the latest honour in a string of awards Ms Suu Kyi, 73, has lost.

“We are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights,” Amnesty’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo wrote in a letter to the Myanmar leader.

“[Her] denial of the gravity and scale of the atrocities [against the Rohingya] means there is little prospect of the situation improving,” Mr Naidoo said.

The organisation, which once feted her as a beacon for democracy, announced its decision on the eighth anniversary of Ms Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest.

Revoked one by one

Nick Beake, BBC Myanmar correspondent

Aung San Suu Kyi’s unswerving pursuit of democracy for Myanmar in the face of a brutal military dictatorship brought her nearly 15 years of house arrest. It also spurred a succession of governments, cities and human rights groups around the world to bestow their honours upon her.

As far back as 1989, Amnesty International declared Ms Suu Kyi a “prisoner of conscience” and 20 years later awarded her its most prestigious award. Nelson Mandela had been a previous recipient.

Now, Amnesty International has written to Ms Suu Kyi saying it’s withdrawing its prize because – as they put it – “we can no longer justify her status as an Ambassador of Conscience”.

United Nations investigators concluded that, while she was not complicit in the alleged genocide last year, she had failed to use her moral authority to help prevent the murder and rape of thousands of Rohingyas by the still-dominant army.

One by one, the freedoms, fellowships and even an honorary citizenship have been revoked for a civilian leader who stubbornly denies crimes against humanity have taken place on her watch.

Ms Suu Kyi came to power as the de facto head of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s civilian administration in 2016.

She has since faced international pressure, including from Amnesty International, to condemn the army’s alleged brutality against the Rohingya. However she has refused to do so.

She has also defended the jailing of two Reuters journalists investigating the killing of Rohingya Muslims.

The last time Ms Suu Kyi spoke to the BBC in April 2017, she said: “I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.”

Her government claims it will begin to welcome back the first groups of refugees later this week as part of a deal with Bangladesh, which has alarmed the UN and aid agencies.

The UN refugee agency wants Rohingya families to be able to return to their former villages and decide for themselves if they feel they are able to live there safely and with dignity.

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Media captionAung San Suu Kyi defended the jailing on two journalists investigating killings

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