Myanmar’s parliament passed a resolution on Wednesday clearing the way for Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s return to power, where she could bring a more “multipartisan” approach to addressing the ethnic divisions fueling the country’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslim minority. The closed-door meeting was the first in recent memory and came after members of parliament voted in private to confirm her title of State Counsellor, a titular title left vacant when she stepped down as leader of the opposition last year.
Ms. Suu Kyi spent years behind bars for the work she did as a women’s rights activist in a nation crushed by a brutal military dictatorship. Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was supposed to be the “changed” political party in Myanmar now that Ms. Suu Kyi was returned to power. Now that these long-awaited meetings with lawmakers had begun, lawmakers hoping to ensure that such historic developments would usher in a new, meaningful era of national engagement finally turned their eyes to Ms. Suu Kyi’s future.
The situation of Ms. Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy supporters is obviously very different from her years under the military, many of them with credible allegations that she allowed soldiers to rape and murder Rohingya. Mr. Htin Kyaw, Ms. Suu Kyi’s pastor husband, refused to comment on the petition that brought Ms. Suu Kyi to parliament. But at a preparatory meeting in Naypyitaw, Mr. Htin Kyaw hinted that things were different.
“Myanmar now has a chance to turn a page and write a new chapter in this history.” Mr. Htin Kyaw said. “The house will have to decide, and I pray that the house will decide in favour of human rights.” The resolution that cleared her way to being reinstated as State Counsellor was passed in private with four votes for and one against from the military. Ms. Suu Kyi has no political position in the military dominated parliament.
Yet so-called Rohingya vigilantes also vowed not to back down and promised to fight another day. Their slogans have nothing to do with women’s rights, or equality. Instead, they believe that the NLD and Ms. Suu Kyi represent the threat that eludes many of Myanmar’s military and semi-independent armed groups: “Four stages of Christian holocaust: End of the world to Islam.” Calling the amendments to Ms. Suu Kyi’s title “illegal,” the vigilante Buddhists are also saying they won’t cooperate with Ms. Suu Kyi as State Counsellor.
“We are in the Rohingya House today. We don’t believe in the government reforms,” said Kyaw Aung, a Burmese monk from Rakhine State.
An activist dressed as a Muslim wearing the traditional hijab, speaking to a small group gathered outside parliament, explained how she expects Ms. Suu Kyi’s delay tactics to continue in the post-Myanmar landslide. “All the problems will continue under Suu Kyi,” said Muzna Daw Hta, a 29-year-old Muslim human rights worker.
“If she doesn’t change policies soon, the NLD won’t last for two years. The Bengali problem won’t be solved,” Muzna Daw Hta said.
“Our rally today is our victory on one side, and pressure on Suu Kyi and NLD on the other side,” said Htay Daw Khin, a Rohingya woman activist, at the Myanmar Refugee Association (MRA) Free Press, Free Gaza Myanmar protest that took place during the session.
Unlike Mr. Htin Kyaw, Ms. Daw Khin was upbeat and active with her cards. She wants Ms. Suu Kyi’s rule to be changed in its meaning and extent, to include directly addressing the troubles of Myanmar’s Muslim minority in the country and the Rohingya specifically. “No one understands how Aung San Suu Kyi’s liberation struggle is different from our liberation struggle,” she said. “We have been raising our voices for more than 20 years, more than the years she spent in jail, and we deserve justice now.”
Photo: The New York Times