Aung San Suu Kyi has moral authority to take up case of Rohingya
The reforms undertaken in the past year or so by Myanmar's quasi-civilian government seem nothing short of breathtaking. Economic, political and social freedoms have been introduced after half a century of hardline military rule and hopes for the nation's future are bright. Ethnic minority groups have less reason for optimism, though, with the plight of 800,000 Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine state highlighting their doubts. The nation's voice of moral leadership, Aung San Suu Kyi, needs to take up their cause.
There is no more respected politician than the opposition National League for Democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Her taking a seat in parliament in April gave her the voice in government that she had been so long denied. But being free of house arrest and now part of the political system has a price. It means she has to be diplomatic about what she says and does. That should not preclude taking a stand on the Rohingya, though.
As yet, no one of authority within the country has been willing to make that move. This is despite decades of persecution of Rohingya by the state's majority ethnic Rakhine, who are mostly Buddhists. Since June, two outbreaks of communal violence have led to dozens of deaths on both sides, the torching of thousands of homes and the displacement of 100,000 Muslims. Rohingya have been stateless since having their citizenship taken from them by law in 1982, which means they are treated as foreigners in their own country. They can have no more than two children per family, face travel restrictions, are unable to own property and are subjected to modern-day slavery through enforced labour.
President Thein Sein has promised to make peace with Myanmar's ethnic groups, long in conflict with the military. He needs to make this a priority; reforms are of limited worth without stability. That Rohingya are not recognised excludes them from such a process. There is no more suitable person than Suu Kyi to make their case.