Najib Razak. Anwar Ibrahim. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. These three individuals have been at each others’ throats over the years (at times, resorting to poetry rather than insults) that it’s quite mind-blowing when they find something they can all agree on.
But surprise surprise, it turns out there actually is something that ALL three of them can get behind:
“I was appalled by the attitude of xxxxxx these days…” – Anwar Ibrahim
“We want to give a message to the government of xxxxxx… we want to tell xxxxxx: ‘enough is enough!’” – Najib Razak
“… xxxxxx seems to be a changed person… So, we make (it) quite clear that we don’t really support xxxxxx anymore.” – Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
Yes, while these three have had their issues in the past, ALL of them seem to share the opinion that this person is a bad egg.
So who’s this that our favourite three amigos have so much beef with?
It’s Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar
… and yes, this was the person Michelle Yeoh played in the 2011 biopic ‘The Lady’.
But before we proceed, a little bit of context so that ugaiz can understand what’s going on: For the latter part of the 20th century, Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of General Aung San (yes, that General Aung San from our Sejarah textbooks), used her father’s name and her charisma to inspire millions of Myanmarese to protest against the military junta in power.
So powerful was her influence that the military had to place her under house arrest for a total of 15 years over a 21 year period to keep her out of the political scene!
Thanks to her efforts in bringing democracy back to Myanmar, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and, in 2016, won the Myanmar general elections by a landslide, ending 50 years of military control over the country.
However, due to a sneaky clause in the Myanmar Constitution, she was prevented from holding the post of President, and was therefore appointed State Counsellor instead.
So what’s she done that’s pissed Malaysia off?
Well, it’s more what she hasn’t done. And it has a lot to do with this guy:
This man is Ashin Wirathu, and he’s a Buddhist monk who’s also the leader of the ultra-nationalist 969 Movement which advocates for systematic ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar. Here’s what he had to say on Myanmar’s Muslim community:
“Muslims are like African carps. They breed rapidly, have violent behaviour, and eat its own kind and other fishes.” – Ashin Wirathu
Yeah, that’s a real quote, believe it or not. What’s most worrying is that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled, gone missing or been massacred ever since their gomen announced a crackdown on Rohingya living in Myanmar.
Remember the Rohingya migration crisis that hit our shores back in 2015? Yeah, this is who they were running away from.
Coming back to
Burmese Michelle Yeoh Aung San Suu Kyi, the reason why everyone’s giving her flak is because she has remained silent over the mass torture and killings of Rohingyas in Myanmar, and has even gone so far as to deny the ethnic cleansing going on in her country right now:
“I don’t think there is ethnic cleaning going on… I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.” – Aung San Suu Kyi in a BBC interview
And it’s not just Najib, Anwar, and Dr. M who are pissed at her…
Because of her apparent ‘takpe’ attitude to the whole issue, not only has Malaysia struck her off our friend list, the Canadian gomen has even revoked her honorary Canadian citizenship awarded to her in 2007!
That’s not all: Aung San Suu Kyi is actually losing awards faster than Rohingyas are fleeing Myanmar; several cities and organisations have revoked their awards bestowed upon her in protest of her silence. There have even been calls to strip her of her Nobel Peace Prize, though it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen, since the Nobel committee doesn’t strip recipients of their prizes.
And what do Suu Kyi’s own people think of her? Well, while citizens of her own ethnicity still appear to strongly support her (Suu Kyi is of Burmese descent), the minorities seem to have a very dim view of her. We managed to ask a young Chin state refugee what he would say if he met Aung San Suu Kyi, and this was his reply:
“I will just say ‘thanks’ to her because I also learned many thing (sic) from the way how she lies to people (sic) and I think she didn’t do what did she said she would do before election.” – John, 21, Chin state refugee now living in the US
After all, it’s mostly these minorities who are the ones fleeing their country for ours to escape violence and discrimination:
“Buddhists, Muslims, Christians all supported her. Why must she continue to be seen to be condoning crimes against the minority?” – Anwar Ibrahim
What does this mean for Malaysia-Myanmar relations?
Although we’ve enjoyed ok-ok relations in the past, it was precisely the Rohingya crisis that started to crack our friendship in two.
This all started when the first batch of Rohingya boats landed on our shores in 2015. Our gomen threatened to push them back to sea, to which the public responded by kecam-ing our gomen. Under pressure, we eventually relented and agreed to let them in temporarily, cos kesian la.
Furious at the Myanmar gomen, our then-PM Najib led a protest against Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar gomen in late 2016 for allowing the Rohingya massacre to happen:
But the golden question is: how did Aung San Suu Kyi respond to all this criticism from Malaysia? Because Malaysia actually once campaigned for her release from house arrest, with Dr. M saying that ‘the Muslims of the Rakhine state may see a new dawn’ under her regime, so you’d expect her to at least offer us an explanation for all this, right?
Well… she actually hasn’t responded at all! In fact, Dr. M wrote her a personal letter back in 2015, which never got a reply!
“We have tried to mediate. I have written to her, she has not replied.” – Tun Dr. Mahathir (in 2018!)
“We condemn Myanmar for carrying out what appears to be genocide, we have not minced words about this, although our policy in Asean is non-interference of internal affairs in other countries, because it is grossly unjust, we have to voice our opinion.” – Tun Dr. Mahathir
However, Suu Kyi recently promised that she’d be ‘transparent’ about the Rohingya issue, so we’ll just have to wait and see how that goes.
But there was that one time when Malaysia wasn’t so caring towards refugees…
Those of you with long memories will remember that wayyy back in 1979, when Dr. M was still Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, he actually rejected Vietnamese immigrants fleeing the aftermath of the Vietnam War, even threatening to shoot them on sight!
“If they try sinking their boats, they will not be rescued, they will drown.” – Datuk Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, as he was then known
Yikes. That’s cold. But, like with recent policy shifts since he’s taken power a second time, he seems to have had a change of heart. Maybe he could take a page out of Justin Trudeau’s book of successful refugee integration and apply that here, wherever possible.