WASHINGTON – The United States Holocaust Museum is revoking a major human rights award given to Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, saying she has failed to respond adequately to the mass killings of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
The museum announced Wednesday that the Elie Wiesel Award given to Suu Kyi in 2012 would be rescinded. The move is just the latest in a series of blows to Suu Kyi’s international reputation, which has plummeted over the Rohingya massacres.
Suu Kyi was a Mandela-like figure in Myanmar who spent years under house arrest for opposing the country’s military dictatorship. She became an international rallying point and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her party won a landslide victory in 2015 and she assumed the newly created post of state counselor, although the military still retains significant political and economic power.
Hopes had been high for Suu Kyi to make the transition from revered opposition figure to reformist political leader, given her long campaign for democracy. Instead, human rights advocates consider her a disappointment, particularly in her response to the Rohingya killings.
The Holocaust Museum has embraced the plight of the Rohingya in recent years, and published a report in November that concluded there was “mounting evidence of genocide” committed by both the military and armed Buddhist extremists.
In a letter to Suu Kyi released Wednesday, the museum accused her government of obstructing United Nations investigators and promoting “hateful rhetoric” against the Rohingya community, even as it acknowledged she has little influence over the military.
The museum had hoped Suu Kyi “would have done something to condemn and stop the military’s brutal campaign and to express solidarity with the targeted Rohingya population,” the letter stated. “The severity of the atrocities in recent months demand that you use your moral authority to address this situation.”
Suu Kyi does not oversee her country’s military or its security operations that set off the exodus of Rohingya refugees, but three former fellow Nobel Peace laureates last month accused her and the army of committing genocide in northern Rakhine state. They said that as the country’s leader she cannot avoid responsibility. Her government has defended the military operation in the north and has embraced the prosecution of journalists along with other attempts to suppress and discredit the media.
Calls to Myanmar’s embassy for comment were not immediately returned.
Associated Press Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.