Aung San Suu Kyi has turned her back on the principles for which Amnesty International honored her

Secretary general Kumi Naidoo writes in The Washington Post about Aung San Suu Kyi’s betrayal of the values she once symbolized.


Aung San Suu Kyi once asked Amnesty International “to not take either your eyes or your mind” off Myanmar as she led a struggle against the country’s repressive military junta.

We did exactly as requested.

And when she ultimately rose to become the de facto leader of Myanmar’s civilian-led government in April 2016, we carried on watching — first with hope, and then with horror.

We watched as the release of scores of prisoners of conscience gave way to renewed political arrests and clampdowns on freedom of expression.

We watched as Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) — elected in a landslide by voters from all walks of life — cultivated narratives of hate that have fostered discrimination and intolerance rather than celebrated the country’s diversity.

And we watched when she failed to condemn or even acknowledge the atrocities against the Rohingya population in Rakhine state — as the military killed thousands, tortured men and boys, raped women and girls, and forced hundreds of thousands out of their homes and country.

We watched keenly, but never silently.

Since Aung San Suu Kyi came to power, Amnesty has documented war crimes and other human rights violations by the military in Kachin and northern Shan states in the north of the country. As is often the case, civilians are those who suffer the worst. But instead of alleviating their suffering, her government has joined the military in restricting humanitarian access to people in need.

We have exposed how the Rohingya have been trapped in a vicious system of state-sponsored, institutionalized discrimination that amounts to apartheid, stripped of their citizenship, segregated from society and unable to move freely or access schools and hospitals. The situation is exacerbated by the administration stirring up hostility against the Rohingya, calling them “terrorists,” and accusing them of burning their own homes and of “faking rape.”

We have gathered — and published — extensive, credible evidence implicating Myanmar’s military commander in chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and 12 other named individuals, most of them high-ranking military or police officers, in crimes against humanity committed against the Rohingya. A United Nations report concluded that these crimes may also constitute genocide.

And this week, we revoked Amnesty’s highest human rights honor — the Ambassador of Conscience Award — from Aung San Suu Kyi herself.

It was when she received this award in person in 2012, two years after being released from long years of house arrest, that she requested we observe what was to come.

Irene Khan, then in the role I now hold as secretary general of Amnesty, described Aung San Suu Kyi as “a symbol of hope, courage and the undying defense of human rights.”

But while Amnesty worked to keep up its side of the bargain, Aung San Suu Kyi did not keep hers.


Read the full op-ed in The Washington Post.