The Corporation of the City of London on the 12thof September made the unprecedented decision to suspend the Honorary Freedom of the City from Aang San Suu Kyi, the world renowned activist and de-facto head of the government of Myanmar. The decision was made in condemnation of the treatment of the Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmarese military which the UN has described as ‘genocide’.
Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy Party governs Myanmar (previously known as Burma) in a power sharing arrangement with the country’s military, has been accused of insufficient opposition to and even complicity in the army’s campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the minority Muslim population on the country’s border with Bangladesh.
The chair of the Freedom Committee, Sir David Wootton, in recommending the suspension of the award said that “The City of London Corporation has today sent a clear message that the violence in Burma and the oppression of that country’s minority Rohingya population cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.”
However, despite this strong language, the vote to suspend the Honorary Freedom represents a backtrack on a previous decision to outright revoke the award. One committee member described the decision as ‘better than nothing’ but still ‘a watering down’ of the earlier stance.
The Committee’s decision to suspend the Freedom comes after pressure from Portsoken ward councillor and filmmaker Munsur Ali, who has visited the Rohingya refugee camps, and argued to the committee this September that “The effects of the atrocities upon the Rohingya community are more visible than ever, as the world hears of their sufferings and struggle to go back home. This is totally unacceptable, especially, in this day and age, and the Rohingya community desperately await justice, but who would come to their aid?”
Suu Kyi had previously received the award, also awarded to people such as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Stephen Hawking, at the Guildhall in December 2017, several decades after her receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of her campaign of non-violent resistance to the then military dictatorship of Myanmar.
Picture Credit: Claude TRUONG-NGOC