PHNOM PENH, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi should try to stop military atrocities against Rohingya civilians or resign, fellow Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman said yesterday. Rights groups and United Nations’ investigators have collected evidence of widespread abuses including sexual violence, killings and arson and described the military crackdown as “ethnic cleansing”. But since coming to power in 2016, Suu Kyi – who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her decades-long pro-democracy fight – has failed publicly to condemn abuses against Rohingya civilians which began after Rohingya insurgents attacked police and military outposts.
“We are so angry about our Nobel sister Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Karman, who visited women in refugee camps on Sunday and Monday along with another two laureates.
“She should tell the truth or she should resign,” said Karman by phone from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. “If she continues in this role, she is one of the perpetrators.”
Karman, who in 2011 was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Yemen, said Suu Kyi could face international prosecution – along with military officers – as she had failed to protect civilians.
Suu Kyi’s spokesman’s phone was turned off, while two officials at the foreign ministry, which she also leads, said they were not able to answer questions. A military spokesman did not answer his phone.
Karman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation she had spoken to 15 women who said their husbands and some of their children had been killed, and they had been raped repeatedly by soldiers.
“You can’t imagine what we heard today,” said Karman.
Suu Kyi, 71, has rarely directly addressed allegations of abuses against Rohingya people even though at least 688,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to U.N. figures.
On Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed to draw up sanctions on military leaders. Suu Kyi is barred from the presidency but her party installed her as de facto leader after a landslide 2015 election. In her current role she has no control over the military. Many hoped Suu Kyi’s ascent to power would help halt abuses against Rohingyas, an ethnic and religious Muslim minority who are mostly denied citizenship and live under an apartheid-like system.