Burma’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been stripped of her Freedom of Oxford award. Councillors on the city council took the “unprecedented” step amid widespread concern about her lack of action in dealing with the suffering of the Muslim Rohingya population in Burma.
It is the latest snub for Ms Suu Kyi after her portrait was removed from her alma mater of St Hugh’s College, where she studied for a degree in philosophy, politics and economics between 1964 and 1967.
In a statement following a special council meeting on Monday, councillor Mary Clarkson said: “When Aung San Suu Kyi was given the Freedom of the City in 1997 it was because she reflected Oxford’s values of tolerance and internationalism. We celebrated her for her opposition to oppression and military rule in Burma.
“Today we have taken the unprecedented step of stripping her of her city’s highest honour because of her inaction in the face of oppression of the minority Rohingya population.
“The burning of their villages has been independently confirmed by satellite images, and the UN has called the situation ’a textbook example of genocide’ – yet Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any ethnic cleansing and dismissed numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as ’fake rape’.
“Oxford has a long tradition of being a diverse and humane city, and our reputation is tarnished by honouring those who turn a blind eye to violence. “We hope that today we have added our small voice to others calling for human rights and justice for the Rohingya people.” Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people have fled to Bangladesh amid reports of atrocities in Rakhine at the hands of the Burmese military.
Earlier this month UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Burma’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority “looks like ethnic cleansing” and the country’s military and governing authorities “must take full responsibility”.
Her comments came after Live Aid founder Bob Geldof handed back his freedom of the city of Dublin in protest at the same honour being held by the Burmese leader. Upon her return to the UK, Ms Mordaunt said: “I have just returned from Bangladesh to see for myself the Rohingya camps and hear directly from the refugees about the horrific atrocities they have endured.
“While every refugee expressed the desire to return home I have made it clear to (Bangladesh) prime minister Sheikh Hasina that any returns must be voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable. “To return the Rohingya people must have both security and peace of mind.
“Those conditions are far from being met.”