The British city of Oxford has stripped Myanmar’s de facto ruler Aung San Suu Kyi of a prestigious award over her government’s brutal persecution of Rohingya Muslims.
The city’s councilors retracted Suu Kyi’s 1997 Freedom of Oxford award, which she personally collected in 2012 for her “pro-democracy” campaign as the leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
In a statement following a special meeting on Monday, councilor Mary Clarkson said the “unprecedented” move was in response to Suu Kyi’s lack of action to stop what the international community has blasted as Maynmar army’s “ethnic cleansing” of the Muslim minority group.
“Oxford has a long tradition of being a diverse and humane city, and our reputation is tarnished by honoring those who turn a blind eye to violence,” Clarkson said.
“We hope that today we have added our small voice to others calling for human rights and justice for the Rohingya people,” she added, blasting Suu Kyi for denying what the United Nations has described as “a textbook example of genocide.”
More than 600,000 desperate Rohingya Muslims have fled the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and crossed into Bangladesh since late August.
The crackdown, backed by radical Buddhist monks, has left scores of Rohingya villages torched and completely destroyed. Aid organizations have also reported numerous cases of sexual abuse against Rohingya women and children.
“The burning of their villages has been independently confirmed by satellite images… yet Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any ethnic cleansing and dismissed numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as ‘fake rape’,” Clarkson said in her statement.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier this month that the situation in Myanmar “looks like ethnic cleansing” and the Southeast Asian country’s military and government “must take full responsibility.”
Before the latest snub, Suu Kyi’s portrait was removed from her alma mater of St Hugh’s College, where she studied between 1964 and 1967.
Suu Kyi has also been under pressure to return a Noble peace prize she was awarded in 1991. However, the Norwegian Nobel Institute, that oversees the prize, says it cannot be revoked despite growing calls from former previous Noble laureates and an online petition signed by over 400,000 people.