History was made on Tuesday, when Aung San Suu Kyi became the first person to be stripped of honorary Canadian citizenship, following an investigation by the United Nations.
On Tuesday the Canadian Senate unanimously passed a measure revoking the Myanmar’s civilian leader citizenship and declaring the treatment of the Rohingya by Myanmar’s government to be nothing short of genocide. Last week, the upper house also followed a similar unanimous vote in the House of Commons.
These votes were prompted in large part by a United Nations fact finding investigation, which reported in August that the Myanmar military had systematically killed thousands of Rohingya civilians, burned hundreds of their villages, engaged in ethnic cleansing and mass gang rape. It also called for six top generals in Myanmar to be investigated and prosecuted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Sen.Ratna Omidvar, who introduced the motion to revoke Suu Kyi’s citizenship on Tuesday explained that Canada needed to recognize the ‘atrocity for what it is’, which was genocide and to call it as such.
Suu Kyi who had the symbolic honour bestowed on her in 2007 for her pro-democracy work, was stripped for complicity in the atrocities committed against the Myanmar’s Rohingya people.
The reports coming from the United Nations were nothing short of ghastly, and claimed that more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims had fled across the border to Bangladesh since August 2017, when Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority security forces began a violent campaign in Rakhine State, killing around 10,000 people among other heinous crimes.
Suu Kyi who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and now leads the Myanmar government was accused by the UN of failing to use her ‘moral authority’ to protect civilians.
She has steadfastly denied reports of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar calling such reports ‘fake news’, has restricted access to international investigators and journalists, defended the military and denied humanitarian aid for Rohingya.
In fact it was her response to the Rohingya crisis that has dramatically transformed her global reputation as a democracy icon, with many on Twitter calling for her to be stripped of her honorary citizenship and her Nobel Peace prize.
Senator Ratna Omidvar, said that while the military wields considerable power in Myanmar, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is not without power herself, in fact hers is a post that is comparable to Prime Minister.
“Stripping her of her honorary citizenship may not make a tangible difference to her, but it sends an important symbolic message,” Ms. Omidvar said.
She continued, saying that Suu Kyi was “complicit in stripping the citizenship and the security of thousands of Rohingya, which has led to their flight, their murder, their rapes and their current deplorable situation.”
“We need to send a strong signal here in Canada and around the world that if you’re an accomplice of genocide, you are not welcome here. Certainly not as an honorary Canadian citizen.” stated Omidvar.
While Suu Kyi was stripped of her citizenship, she will retain her Nobel Peace prize award, which she won in 1991, ironically for campaigning for democracy.
Lars Heikensten, the head of the Nobel Foundation, explained that it made no sense to withdraw awards in reaction to things that had occurred after they were given ‘as judges would constantly have to discuss laureates’ merit’.