It’s good that Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi showed the guts to break the heavy silence around the ethnic violence against the Rohingyas, weeks after satellites painted a map of horrific devastation—scores of minority villages burnt to cinders—in the country’s Rakhine province. In the past month alone, nearly 4,21,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh. The world acknowledges this to be among the biggest refugee crises in recent times, second only to Syria.
Bangladesh is rightly concerned about being able to cope with the population influx. New Delhi has been forced into some tightrope walking—sending humanitarian aid to the refugee camps in Bangladesh, while fiercely debating whether to keep sheltering illegal Rohingya immigrants on its soil or send them packing in response to the theory that they may host terror groups.
Suu Kyi’s speech, if not disappointing, was full of qualifiers, the biggest of them voicing doubts about the scale of the crisis. The Nobel Peace laureate seemed to be in denial mode—refusing to use the term Rohingya and citing how many are still living in Myanmar. Nonetheless, she remains the only hope for a ‘stateless’ population caught between a military crackdown and angry ethnic Buddhist mobs.
Despite her equivocation, a lot of hope rides on her young, democratically- elected government, still trying to secure its place in the troubled Myanmar polity, to find a humane resolution that can save an emaciated population and bring about a degree of social calm. The world will hold her to her word about allowing it diplomatic access to see that the atrocities cease and the ethnic minorities find their rightful place.
We would like to believe her words that the government would not ‘apportion blame’ or abnegate responsibility. Neither home affairs nor defence or border affairs are under her government’s control, but Suu Kyi, who struggled for years in confinement to restore democracy in her country, may have arrived at a place where she learns how the mechanisms of democracy can actually produce creative solutions.