Myanmar’s NLD Brushes Off Suspension of Suu Kyi’s London Honor

By Nyein Nyein 13 September 2019

CHIANG MAI – In the latest move to strip honors bestowed on Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the City of London Corporation in the United Kingdom has suspended its 2017 honorary freedom award.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received the award in May 2017, in recognition of her “non-violent struggle over many years for democracy and her steadfast dedication to creating a society where people can live in peace, security and freedom”.

But the State Counselor has faced widespread criticism from the international community for not being outspoken enough for humanitarian rights, following the incidents in August 2017 in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, which caused mass displacement of more than 700,000 Rohingya during the military’s clearance operations.

Last November, Amnesty International revoked its most prestigious human rights prize, and the Canadian parliament stripped her honorary citizenship in September 2018.

In March last year, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum rescinded its top human rights award, which was granted in 2012. The freedom of the cities of Dublin, Oxford and Edinburgh were withdrawn amid accusations that she failed to intervene in the Rohingya crisis.

Critics have also called for her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to be withdrawn but the foundation that oversees the award said last year that the rules regulating Nobel prizes did not allow for withdrawal.

Sir David Wootton, the chairman of the Freedom Applications Committee, said in a statement on Sept. 12 that the committee would inform Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

He added that the City of London Corporation “condemned the humanitarian abuses carried out in Burma [Myanmar], and that the suspension, which is unprecedented in the City Corporation’s history, reflects its unhappiness with events in Burma and the position of the civilian government”.

The freedom committee said the award should be suspended because there were “barriers…to having the sufficient knowledge of the situation in Burma and, in particular, the position of the honorary freedom”, according to City A.M.

But the committee’s attempt to suspend the award did not please some councillors, who wanted tougher action.

City of London councillor Munsur Ali, who tabled the original motion to revoke the award, told City A.M. that the suspension decision represented a “watering down” of the corporation’s original stance, but it was “better than nothing”.

The City Corporation said it tried to communicate with the State Counselor three times this year.

UK Ambassador to Myanmar Daniel Chugg said the decision of the City of London Corporation “does not reflect the views of the British Government.”

Daw Shwe Shwe Sein Latt, an Upper House parliamentarian, told The Irrawaddy that she stands with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It is their concern and not ours. We stand with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s principle,” she said. “We won’t be feeling anything about any award-stripping, because Aunty [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] works for all of our people and she prioritizes their concerns.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has rarely responded to the withdrawal of international honors.

She has said she did not care about prizes and honors. “I think friendship means understanding, basically, to try to understand rather than to just make your own judgment, but prizes come and prizes go,” she told NHK in 2018.

“Everything that we did as a party is based on the real situation in Myanmar and I think, if our people understand that, that is what we have to stand by,” she said.

Her portrait was removed from St. Hugh’s College at Oxford University, where she studied politics, philosophy and economics between 1964 and 1967. The portrait was first put on display in 1999.

She is backed by many of her supporters in Myanmar.

Domestic support for the National League for Democracy would not be affected by international action, said Dr. Myo Nyunt, the party spokesman.

He said the party did not comment on the removal of honors.

“We are doing our best for our people and our country. We have no comment to make,” he told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

“The organizations are using it as a way to pressure [Myanmar] with their politically motivated demands. We know well about our country’s situation and we will be resisting any pressure,” Dr. Myo Nyunt said.

He said international action only increased public sympathy for the party and its leader.

This story was updated on September 15.