Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Trend of Silence

By Lawi Weng 4 February 2017

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has remained noticeably silent regarding the death of National League for Democracy (NLD) legal advisor U Ko Ni, who was assassinated earlier this week outside the Rangoon International Airport.

She was not in attendance at his funeral, nor has she sent a public condolence to the victim’s family.

Her silence has raised questions as to her fear of the Burma Army or extremist Buddhist monks.

Critics have asked why she attended former USDP lawmaker Aung Thaung’s funeral, but not U Ko Ni’s.

The day after his death, state-run media kept the story off of the front page. Follow-up coverage regarding the investigation has been sparse in state-run media.

The assassination of U Ko Ni rattled the country. He was a prominent member of Burma’s Muslim minority and moderate figure who spoke in favor of amending the Constitution and religious tolerance.

Some people worry that this incident will quickly fade from the public consciousness and that the government will not thoroughly investigate the crime because of its possible link to the military. U Ko Ni’s biggest crime may have been that he was a constitutional expert who suggested reforms to the charter imposed in 2008 granting the military great power.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was for years the country’s pro-democracy icon. After a year as the country’s de facto leader, one wonders where she stands on human rights and democracy issues today.

On top of her silence regarding U Ko Ni’s death, she has also remained silent on Burma Army offensives in Kachin State and the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State.

She remained silent when the army launched ground and airstrikes in Kachin State, when refugees fled to China but were turned away, when tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Burma Army “security clearance operations” to Bangladesh, and when the army restricted humanitarian aid.

People have stated their frustration with her failure to deliver on her campaign promise to provide equal rights for ethnic groups and disappointment at placing their trust and safety in her hands.

Her NLD party won a majority in Kachin State, and people there had high expectations for reform, so far to no avail.

The State Counselor’s Office donated 300 million kyats (US$220,000) to Kachin refugees through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement this week but activists say the money is not enough.

“It seems like she just wants to buy our votes,” said Kachin right’s activist Khon Ja.

By-elections will be held in April to fill vacant seats. Kachin constituents have asked why she came out with this money now and not during Burma Army offensives last year.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence leaves many to wonder whether she stands for the army or for her people.