Rakhine Statement by Malala Yousafszai Met With Ire

By San Yamin Aung 6 September 2017

YANGON— A tweet by Pakistani female education activist and Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafszai in support of Myanmar’s self-identifying Rohingya Muslim population has attracted criticism from some in Myanmar.

The 20-year-old winner of the Nobel Peace Prize called on Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the treatment of Rakhine’s Muslim minority in a tweet labeled “My statement on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.”

“Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same,” Malala Yousafszai said in a statement

She called for the end of violence, for self-identified Rohingya to be given citizenship, and for other countries, such as Bangladesh, to give food, shelter and education to refugees.

After militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a series of attacks on 30 police outposts on Aug. 25—killing 13 members of the security forces.

Subsequent violence has left 28 civilians dead, displaced 27,000 Arakanese, Arakanese sub-ethnicities, and Hindus internally, and sent 146,000 mainly Muslim refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, according to the most recent UN figures available at the time of reporting.

The statement—which had garnered nearly 25,000 retweets and 19,000 replies by Wednesday evening—was widely commented on by international media and netizens; among the latter were also critical responses.

Many claimed to previously support Malala Yousafszai for her courage in confronting the Taliban on female education issues, for which she was shot in the face, but accused her of ignoring the plight of ethnic Arakanese and Hindu affected by the violence and failing to denounce ARSA for their violent attacks on security forces and civilians.

Legal expert U Khin Maung Myint told The Irrawaddy the young activist had riled the population by failing to condemn militant attacks.

“[The situation] is not about racial and religious discrimination, it became about terrorists’ attacks on civilians including Arakanese, Hindus, Muslims and other. It is important and she missed it,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“I strongly condemn Malala’s one-sided comments, [she does not] understand the real situation of Myanmar,” Shwe Cin Ei, a Facebook user, posted.

A Twitter account by the name of Thant Zin Oo retweeted the statement, commenting: “I really appreciate what you have done especially fighting against some unpractical social norms for girls’ education. Therefore, I think you have huge a responsibility for your actions and your words. Regarding the crisis in Myanmar, of course our hearts are also broken whenever we see pictures, videos and news about people dying regardless of who they are. However, I am wondering if you have even seen some pictures or videos of local people being killed very brutally by extremist terrorists.”