Ethnic Activists Criticize Suu Kyi’s Humanitarian Award

By Kyaw Kha 20 September 2016

Ethnic activists have criticized Harvard University’s Harvard Foundation for giving its Humanitarian of the Year Award to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, saying that the Nobel laureate has been silent about the country’s ethnic groups that are victims in an ongoing war.

Activists said that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been silent about the Burma Army’s disruption of humanitarian aid provided by the international community to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, while she has barely engaged in social welfare works in the country.

Mary Tawn, an activist aiding Kacin IDPs said, “[Aung San Suu Kyi] has said basically nothing about the Kachin IDPs since the clashes broke out in Kachin State in 2011, while the military disrupts the supply of humanitarian aid. As a person who is helping IDPs, I can’t believe that she was given this prize under these circumstances.”

The number of IDPs at various camps in Kachin State increased last year but international aid supplies have declined and camps are short of food, she said.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has not even verbally comforted the IDPs in Kachin and Shan states, said Ko Sai Aung Myint Oo, chairman of the Shan Youth Organization based in Rangoon.

“There are about 150,000 IDPs in Shan and Kachin states. They desperately want to hear from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. But she has said nothing about them yet. I don’t know what yardstick they used for the prize, but it should not have been awarded to her yet,” Sai Aung Myint Oo told The Irrawaddy.

Saw Alex of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) said that perhaps the award would push her to exert greater effort in championing humanitarian needs in the country.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is weak in regard to humanitarian causes but this does not mean she does not want to improve. She has been busy engaging many issues. We should view the prize constructively as an impetus for her and the new government to put greater effort into humanitarian works,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received the 2016 Harvard Humanitarian of the Year award on September 17 in the United States as she was on an official visit to the White House.