Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi becomes first person stripped of honorary Canadian citizenship
A brutal military campaign that started last year drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh, where they now live in cramped refugee camps
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi became the first person to be stripped of honorary Canadian citizenship on Tuesday over her refusal to call out atrocities by her nation’s military against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The move was made official after Canada’s Senate voted to revoke the symbolic honour. The lower house had already approved a motion to the same effect last week.
“We must recognise this atrocity for what it is,” said Senator Ratna Omidvar, who introduced the motion to revoke Suu Kyi’s citizenship on Tuesday. “It is genocide. We must call it as it is.”
Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her fight for democracy in Myanmar.
“At that point she was a champion for change and human rights ... The world pinned its hope on her as the shining light and hope for a democratic and peaceful Myanmar,” Omidvar said. “As we all now know, that was not to be.”
Omidvar said Suu Kyi has denied the atrocities, restricted access to international investigators and journalists, defended the military and denied humanitarian aid for the Rohingya.
“We need to send a strong signal here in Canada and around the world that if you’re an accomplice of genocide, you are not welcome here. Certainly not as an honorary Canadian citizen.”
The House of Commons granted the privilege to Suu Kyi in 2007, but her international reputation has since been tarnished by her refusal to call on the Burmese army to put an end to the atrocities committed against the Rohingya. The ethnic group are treated as foreigners in Myanmar, a country that is more than 90 per cent Buddhist.
A brutal military campaign that started last year drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh, where they now live in cramped refugee camps – fearful of returning despite a repatriation deal. Many have given accounts of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and arson.
Canada has granted honorary citizenship only to five other personalities, including Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Malala Yousafzai.
Additional reporting by Reuters