Is she Cersei Lannister: cold, cynical and deadly? Or Sansa Stark: noble, long-suffering and genuine? Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi – the general’s daughter presiding over a desperately fragile state – has been transformed from being the military’s nemesis into its leading apologist or, worse yet, its enabler. As the proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gear up and Myanmar again comes under global scrutiny, many have asked how she could have become so reviled? She has allowed the darkest forces in her nation to wreak violence against the long oppressed Muslim Rohingya minority , whom she refuses to acknowledge. Suu Kyi: it’s ‘misleading’ to label Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya as genocide More than 730,000 Rohingya are believed to have fled to Bangladesh since violence against them broke out in the Rakhine state in August 2017. That’s why Suu Kyi is at The Hague, defending her government against charges of genocide. During the same period, an investigation into the brutal murder of 10 Rohingya men and their subsequent mass burial led to the detention of Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from December 2017 to May 2019, although the pair eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting. Still, the parallels between Cersei and Suu Kyi are hard to deny. Both come across as stoic, impenetrable and have succeeded in a field dominated by men. Once in power – both would do anything to keep hold of it. Unlike Cersei, Suu Kyi remains popular among her own people, if the rallies held in support of her in the lead-up to the ICJ proceedings are any indication. As one tea shop owner from the Botahtung township said: “I stand with Aung San Suu Kyi. She is a good leader and works hard for the country. She is taking responsibility as a leader by facing the ICJ court.” It’s unlikely the ICJ – even if it rules against Myanmar – would be able to stop the violence against the Rohingya. For one thing, there’s nothing to enforce its rulings. And the roots of the Buddhist-Muslim divide in Myanmar run deep. Has Suu Kyi found common ground with Orban over Islam? Thant-Myint U, author and historian, attempts to explain the roots of the violence in his latest book, The Hidden History of Burma . For Thant, Myanmar’s tangled ethnic history predates the colonial era. Although tensions between Muslims and Buddhists had long existed, the British imposed a racial hierarchy that reduced the Burmese to passive onlookers as millions of migrants from India and China flooded into the then booming economy, fuelled by the exports of teak, oil and rubies. Successive governments since independence failed to heal the nation’s divide. Thant does not seem to have any solutions for the poisonous identity politics tearing his homeland apart. Rather, the only policy prescriptions he offers are the need to address the anomalies of capitalism and the looming prospect of climate change, which presents an existential challenge to Myanmar. None of this is intrinsically wrong and Thant is astute to highlight the environmental angle, which often gets lost in Southeast Asian policymaking. Suu Kyi seeks foreign investment in Rakhine despite violence But when confronted by the devastating stories of Rohingya being murdered, raped, driven from their homes and starved, only one question really matters: can they ever return to Rakhine state? Sadek Ali Hasan, a Rohingya refugee and schoolteacher, has lived in Malaysia for the past 14 years. He yearns to return home. “I owned 18 hectares of arable land,” he said. “If my rights, properties and wealth are restored then of course I will return! If there is peace and stability, then why do I need to stay here [in Malaysia]?” This is where Suu Kyi’s failure has been so acute. Nobody denies the intractable difficulties she and her country face. But she ought to have used her moral authority to affect a breakthrough in Myanmar’s ethnic divide, whatever it may have cost her politically or personally. Instead she proved she is no different than other opportunistic politicians. The Lady has feet of clay. All nations have their demons. The challenge for leaders is to exorcise such evil: especially if their own, hard-core supporters are the ones who can be so easily swayed by such propaganda. Suu Kyi has failed at this. Suu Kyi has ridden the global wave of the ethno-nationalism. But at what cost to Myanmar and the region? So in Myanmar’s Game of Thrones, is Suu Kyi Cersei or Sansa? Maybe – and one desperately hopes that this is not the case – she’s just a Daenerys Targaryen, the Khaleesi that everyone loved- but who ended up, literally, setting her land ablaze. Only time will tell but that is running out rapidly for the Rohingya and indeed, Myanmar.