Jailing dents Suu Kyi’s reputation

Jailing dents Suu Kyi’s reputation


The jailing of two Reuters journalists has torn to shreds Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's reputation as a rights champion, critics say, after she failed to come to their defence or speak up for the persecuted Rohingya minority.

Once a staunch advocate for the free press she had been a darling of the foreign media during her long years of house arrest under the former junta - which choked the media inside Myanmar - it was foreign correspondents who carried her message of peaceful defiance to the world outside.

Glowing profiles burnished her image, with comparisons made to the valiant fighters like the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. Ms. Suu Kyi still remains adored inside Myanmar but supporters of her democracy battle say she has limited control over the military, which ceded full control in 2015 after almost 50 years in power.

But her response to the Rohingya crisis has sent her international reputation into a tailspin. Former friends and supporters have looked on aghast at her lack of criticism of the military campaign against the Rohingya last year.

And UN investigators last week said that campaign was pursued with 'genocidal intent' and Monday's conviction of the journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and their seven-year sentence has only confirmed this and sent a chill through the state's already embattled press community.

Yet throughout the trial Ms. Suu Kyi has been unmoved by calls to intervene, or even criticise the court case. Bill Richardson, a US diplomat and until recently a Suu Kyi confidante, alleges that she denounced the two journalists when he tried to raise their plight in person. 'Suu Kyi's response was filled with anger, referring to the journalists as 'traitors',' the former New Mexico Governor said.

Shortly after the set-to in January, Richardson quit his position on an international advisory body into the Rakhine crisis, labeling it a whitewash. Another person at the same meeting could not remember whether Suu Kyi used the word 'traitors'.