Myanmar stands up for rejected Suu Kyi

Top News | REUTERS 14 Nov 2018

Myanmar authorities and citizens have leaped to the defense of Aung San Suu Kyi after Amnesty International stripped her of its top award over indifference to atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims.

The civilian leader's international reputation as a rights icon is in pieces and Amnesty's move is the latest in a string of rescinded accolades.

Canada revoked her honorary citizenship last month and the US Holocaust Museum in March took back an award.

Institutions that once showered Suu Kyi with titles are rapidly distancing themselves from a leader they argue is doing little in the face of alleged ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya minority.

Amnesty's "Ambassador of Conscience" award was bestowed in 2009.

Other recipients include freedom icon Nelson Mandela, Pakistani female education activist Malala Yousafzai and Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei.

"Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights," Amnesty chief Kumi Naidoo said in a letter to Suu Kyi.

"Amnesty cannot justify your continued status as a recipient of the award and so with great sadness we are hereby withdrawing it from you."

But domestically, Suu Kyi remains popular across vast swathes of Myanmar and within her party, the National League for Democracy, which won elections in 2015 ending decades of military-backed rule.

The stripping of awards not only harms the dignity of Suu Kyi, but also that of all NLD members, party spokesman Myo Nyunt said, adding he thought this was all part of a wider conspiracy.

"All these organizations are working for the Bengalis who have left the country in order to get citizenship."

Deputy information minister Aung Hla Tun said Suu Kyi was being treated unfairly. Such moves would only "make the people love her more," he said.

People on the street in Yangon were defiant.

"Their withdrawal is pretty childish," said Khin Maung Aye, 50. "It's like when children aren't getting along with each other and take back their toys."

Htay Htay, 60, said: "We don't need their prize."

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