An Open Letter to Aung San Suu Kyi

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Aung San Suu Kyi

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Aung San Suu Kyi

Respected Ms Aung San Suu Kyi,

Thanks to the internet, I have the luxury of putting together this open letter for you (though of course, a busy Nobel Laureate such as yourself must be having better things to do than reading this letter).

Last month, at the third Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), you met the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. Both of you discussed various issues, such as the importance of providing micro-loans to rural women and the need to restrict the trafficking of meth pills in the region. It was good to hear that steps were being taken for the betterment of the entire region.

However, something was missing. Yes, the plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Did you forget about them? Of course you did! You are a busy lady, after all!

Sheikh Hasina did allude to the Rohingya crisis, though. She told you that both Myanmar and Bangladesh need to resolve the refugee crisis, but you did not respond.

Since my assumption is that you have totally forgotten about the Rohingya populace of your own country (again, you’re very busy, I know that), allow me to remind you a little bit about them. They happen to be Burmese citizens. They are one of the most persecuted communities in the world; the United Nations describes them as “friendless”, and they would have gladly contributed to Myanmar’s GDP, if only they weren’t being massacred. On a sidenote, they also happen to have a religion that’s different from the majority of Burmese folks, and this is why they are being killed. Basically, Myanmar wants to eliminate the Rohingya people from its territory, and Bangladesh does not consider itself accountable for foreign refugees.

Still unsure? Well, here is something that will refresh your memory.

One can blame many people for the destruction and genocide of the Rohingya people, but that’s an altogether different story. My question is, why are you silent?

You see, I have been following your heroics ever since I was a child. Growing up, I just could not fathom what threat a single lady posed to the military junta of Myanmar. After all, they had those big guns and bullets, and you had just flowers! Later on, I realized that the threat was not physical. Instead, you symbolized the heart and spirit of resistance. You stood tall as the champion of freedom and democracy in your country.

Quite obviously, your release from house arrest in 2010 marked a new era in the history of Myanmar.

As a result, your silence on the Rohingya issue is both shocking and disappointing. How can you — a lady who has been fighting for the freedom of her people — be silent whilst an entire section of her country’s population is being killed? How can you — a lady who embodies the very essence of liberty — be a mute spectator of one of the biggest genocide of our times?

Your silence is shocking, Ms Suu Kyi. And the fact that the world is silent about your silence is even more shocking. You see, it seems like nobody wishes to say anything negative about you. After all, you are worshipped as a political hero – “the leader of the resistance” — yeah, something like that. Everyone supports the war you have waged for a ‘free’ Myanmar. Too bad your version of a ‘free’ Myanmar does not have room for the Rohingya people!

Since the Rohingya masses do not have many supporters, your stand is not unique. But that’s why I am writing this letter! You see, when it comes to the Rohingya crisis, the Bangladeshi and Burmese governments are trying their level best to evade responsibility, whereas the international community has chosen to be quiet. You, on the other hand, could have served as a much-needed mediator. You could have facilitated a solution to this crisis by bringing the relevant players to the table and encouraging them to seek a mutual compromise. Unfortunately, you seem too busy to do that.

I know that if you were to express your willingness to help the Rohingya people, the international community would listen. But your inaction is heartbreaking, ma’am.

The world rejoiced when you were released from prison. Why? Because you had fought for freedom, and your imprisonment was unjustified. Today, the Rohingya people of your country need you, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi. You have a political and moral duty towards them. Please, try not to disappoint them!


A well-wisher.

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+ or email him at

  • Myanmarnews

    don’t lie to the readers. there is no ‘Rohingya’ in Myanmar.

    The British held censuses in 1872, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931 and 1941. You can read the 1881, 1901, 1911, 1921 and 1931 censuses online at the Digital Library of India. 19 separate Muslim population groups in Burma are listed in the 1931 census, some with a range of alternative names, but ‘Rohingya’ does not appear at all in any census at any time, nor for that matter in any gazetteer, legislation, records, official reports or private correspondence.
    That means 122 years of British administration of Arakan from 1826 to 1948 with no, repeat no mention of ‘Rohingya’. The British did however willingly acknowledge that some Muslims, notably ‘Pathan’ Chinese, Malay Muslim and ‘Arakan Mohamedans’ (but not ‘Chittagonians’ and ‘Bengalis’) were long term residents and to all intents and purposes indigenous.

    check the article by a former British ambassador

    • M.A. Alam

      14 April 2014 Dear Concern person of Myanmar News,
      According to the British held censuses in 1872, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931 and 1941, as far as I know the British officials did not mentioned the Rohingya, the Rakhine but they recorded as Arakanese Muslim or Muslim or Mohamedans for Rohingyas and Arakanese Buddhists or Muggs for Rakhine people of Arakan. Another record 1824 of Arakan
      the total population of Arakan was mentioned 1,00,000 : the Muggs 60,000; Muslims 30,000 and Burmans 10,000. The name Rakinine was not mentioned in British Census and the name Rohingya. If the Rakhine name is not a problem why the Rohingya name. You can not solely depend on Baxter Report or other reports rewrite by the Monks and Mugg people of Arakan

      M.A. Alam, Senior Researcher, Bangladesh Institute of Arakan Studies.

      • Zaw Win

        Excellent reply to Maug.

      • Myanmarnews

        you already confessed there was no Rohingya in the British census. Why create new name. Just accept ‘Bangali’ name. If you are truely a scholar, just tell the truth. Was there Rohingya in the British census?

  • Zaw Win

    This mean late U Nu and other
    democratically elected Parliament members and Brigadier Aung Gyi. All were
    fools. Who recognized Rohingya as one of
    the native people from Arkan. So they did
    not have brain. What a funniest joke. If someone visit Maung Daw and look
    towards the east, will see mountain range. There on this mountain range will
    find two significant places. One is Kaya Puri hill top and other Hanifa. Kya
    Puri was Queen of a hill tribe. Not Maug ( Rakhine ). She was decedent from
    Arayan tribes. Now Maug ( Rakhines ) want to destroy those historical proofs.

  • Zaw Win

    Who started the elimination of Rohigya name from ethnic races of Burma? Ne Win the dictators. Who were the Historian to support him. Late Hla Gyaw. Rakhine
    extremist. Was there any radio programs in Rohigya language in Burma. Will you
    support a democratically elected Government or dictatorial Government.
    Democratically elected Government accepted Rohingya as one of the ethnic race of Burma. Extremist fake Goverment wants to appease Rakhine extremist by kicking out Rohingya in Rakhine favour.

  • Michael_Greenwald

    My first experience in the area of West Burma began in 2003 when I went there for WHO to administer TB tests. From the first I could see that the Roihynga were a distinct group, who dressed and looked different from the native Burmese—and they had loads of kids.

    They immigrated from Bengal, SW India, later called East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, for at least 150 years and this was made easy by lack of border enforcement. Originally
    called “Bengali-Muslims”, The name “Rohingya” was adopted about 1960 as a way of identifying themselves as an ethnic group rather than immigrants. It is a political term the Burmese do not accept.

    One might say the Bengalis were “invited” into British Burma by lack of border enforcement. Things never went well from the start. They looked like East Indians, dressed like East Indians, were Muslims, did not speak the same language and did not assimilate with the locals who were Buddhists. This failure to assimilate persists today.

    In1942 there was a Muslim uprising, followed by a lot of killing back and forth. In 1947 the “Bengali-Muslims’ Mujahid Insurgency” started after the central government refused to grant a separate Muslim state in Rakhine Provence. The rebellion was put down with considerable killing.

    The current Rohingya (Mujahid) political party was founded by elders who supported the jihad and separation effort in 1947, which is hardly reassuring to the Burmese.

    Many Rakhine Burmese believe there is a plan is to “convert us all to Islam and take over Rakhine.” There have been fights, forced conversions of some of some Buddhist women, threats and attempts to expand Islamic influence. Furthermore, Burma is one of those countries that does not automatically grant citizenship to those borne there and the Burmese consider them illegal aliens.

    The Rohingya seem to be the victims in this matter and clearly they are the ones currently persecuted. But a strong sympathetic case can be also be made for the native residents of Rakhine Provence, who are poor and had to endure virtually unrestricted illegal immigration of millions of even poorer people who have huge families, an aggressive, converting religion and do not assimilate. They have put a huge strain on the resources of the area.

    It is easy for armchair diplomats to make accusations one way or the other and placing blame now is clearly a matter of opinion. But one thing is certain, no matter how many are killed or run off, there will be millions left and the problem will not go away.