The United States Holocaust Museum is revoking a major human rights award given to Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, saying she has failed to respond adequately to the mass killings of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
The museum announced Wednesday that the Elie Wiesel Award given to Suu Kyi in 2012 would be rescinded. The move is the latest blow to Suu Kyi’s international reputation, which has plummeted in view of the Rohingya massacres.
In response to the museum’s action, a spokesman for Suu Kyi said the decision appeared to be based on “the wrong information” and that it made the Myanmar government “very disappointed and sad.”
Suu Kyi was a Mandela-like figure in Myanmar who spent years under house arrest for opposing the country’s military dictatorship. She became an international rallying point and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her party won a landslide victory in 2015 and she assumed the newly created post of state counselor, although the military retains significant political and economic power.
Hopes had been high for Suu Kyi to make the transition from revered opposition figure to reformist political leader, given her long campaign for democracy. Instead, human rights advocates consider her a disappointment, particularly in her response to the Rohingya killings.
The Holocaust Museum has embraced the plight of the Rohingya in recent years, and published a report in November that concluded there was “mounting evidence of genocide” committed by both the military and armed Buddhist extremists.
In a letter to Suu Kyi released Wednesday, the museum accused her government of obstructing United Nations investigators and promoting “hateful rhetoric” against the Rohingya community, even as it acknowledged she has little influence over the military.
The museum had hoped Suu Kyi “would have done something to condemn and stop the military’s brutal campaign and to express solidarity with the targeted Rohingya population,” the letter stated. “The severity of the atrocities in recent months demand that you use your moral authority to address this situation.”
Suu Kyi does not oversee her country’s military or its security operations that set off the exodus of Rohingya refugees, but three former fellow Nobel Peace laureates last month accused her and the army of committing genocide in northern Rakhine state. They said that as the country’s leader she cannot avoid responsibility. Her government has defended the military operation in the north and has embraced the prosecution of journalists along with other attempts to suppress and discredit the media.
Zaw Htay, Suu Kyi’s spokesman, said in response to a request for comment: “Myanmar has always been supportive of the Holocaust Museum’s principles and activities and the purposes of the museum. But now, now the latest situation in Rakhine state, we see that the Museum has no balance perceptions on us.”
He added: “We assume that the decision of revoking the award is also based on of the wrong information they have received. The Myanmar government is very disappointed and sad on the decision made by the Museum. And this decision will not have any effect on the supports from Myanmar people to the state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.”