A growing roll-call of prominent supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi have turned on the Nobel Laureate over the repression of Myanmar’s Rohingya muslims.
William Hague, the foreign British foreign secretary, became the latest friend of Suu Kyi to condemn her leadership of the country amid pogroms that threaten almost one million people. He is among many who worked for her freedom during the decades of imprisonment and house arrest she endured to express his dismay at her role in the current crisis.
Mr Hague was among the first foreign leaders to visit Suu Kyi when she was freed in 2012, arriving on her doorstep before Hillary Clinton, the then US Secretary of State. The wife of a deceased British academic, Suu Kyi is extremely close to the British embassy in Myanmar and is regarded as a personal friend by many ambassadors and politicians in London.
“It is possible to make the argument that we should cut her some slack,” wrote Mr Hague in a weekly newspaper column. “[But] I join all those who have come to the sad conclusion that, no, it isn’t.
“The action against the Rohingya in the past fortnight appears to be one of unlimited violence against the civilian population. The accounts emerging from the area in question, Rakhine State, involve the torching of villages and appalling atrocities of rape and murder.”
Campaigners have condemned the British government’s response to the atrocities in Myanmar as pathetic and suggested London is in thrall to Suu Kyi. More than 150 British parliamentarians signed a letter urging Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, to apply greater pressure on both Aung San Sui Kyi and Min Aung Hlaing, commander in chief of the military in Myanmar.
Mark Farmaner, the director of the Burma UK Campaign, which championed Suu Kyi’s freedom, said he had pleaded with her personally but was rebuffed.
“Aung San Suu Kyi's behaviour is inexcusable, I campaigned for more than a decade for her release from house arrest, I pressured the government, I went around the world calling for her release and I am so disappointed with how she has behaved,” he said. “I've spoken to her about this myself; she did not seem sympathetic. I said to her, please go and see for yourself what's going on in northern Rakhine State to the Rohingya, but she refused.”
Mr Hague’s intervention follows that of other prominent Nobel prize winners, who have implored her to stand up to the Myanmar military. Muhammad Yunis, the founder of Grameen Bank, wrote in The National of the suffering taking place just a few miles from his own hometown in Bangladesh. “Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto head of government, should undertake a visit to the refugee camps in Bangladesh to address the terrified people living there,” he wrote. “She should tell them that Myanmar is as much their home as it is hers. This single act of leadership will wash away all the suspicions and begin the process of healing.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also made a direct plea to his fellow laureate. The Dalai Lama said the suffering of the Rohingya could be seen on their faces after Suu Kyi said the reports from the region were fake news. "May I take the liberty of writing to you once again to tell you how dismayed I am by the distressing circumstances in which the situation seems to have deteriorated further,” the Tibetan leader wrote. "I appeal to you and your fellow leaders to reach out to all sections of society to try to restore friendly relations throughout the population in a spirit of peace and reconciliation,” he said.
Human rights activists are appalled their former hero is now in league with the military responsible for the attacks. “Aung San Suu Kyi hits a new low with this potentially deadly inflammatory propaganda. leadership failure,” Phelim Kine, a deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch
Mr Hague called for Suu Kyi to take four steps. First, to demand the military stop the violence. Second, to commission an investigation of crimes on all sides. Third, to explain to Myanmar’s citizens that the violence won’t resolve grievances. And fourth, to take the risk of taking on the military and exert full control over the Myanmar state.
He ended with an exhortation to his former friend. “Come on, Aung San Suu Kyi. Be the great leader we always knew.”