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Suu Kyi faces moment of truth after killing of Muslim adviser 


Sunday’s killing of a Muslim lawyer and member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy outside Yangon’s international airport is emblematic of a deepening crisis.

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It testifies to the surge of anti-Muslim sentiment that has been sweeping the country beyond the international spotlight trained on Rakhine and the persecuted Rohingya. 
Ever since the Rohingya crisis emerged in the state bordering Bangladesh, Myanmar has seethed with persecution of Muslims, in an offensive that is being backed by hardline Buddhist nationalists. The inter-ethnic tensions have simmered on despite the change of guard in Nay Pyi Taw and the putative switch to democracy after decades of military rule. 
As such international supporters of Suu Kyi have been dismayed at her half-hearted attempts to bring about peace in Rakhine. Her silence before assuming authority was arguably driven by the anxiety not to rock the junta boat. Now in power, she is yet to respond to the question of why she is dithering over the persecution of Muslims. Even after the killing of a leading member of her party, she has been muted in her response to the crime at the international airport. Rohingya oppression has been stepped up and the killing of Ko Ni – an architect of the country’s democratic transition – marks an offensive against Muslims in Yangon, the nerve-centre of the Buddhist-dominated junta’s authority until the capital was transferred to Nay Pyi Taw in 2006. A long-time member of the NLD and legal adviser to the party, Ko had often spoken out in favour of religious tolerance and pluralism. Both concepts have been anathema to the junta and much of the Buddhist majority population in Myanmar for the past several decades. 
Of course, Suu Kyi’s NLD won a landslide victory in the elections of November 2015. But it needs to be underlined that the “icon of democracy” was circumspect enough not to field any Muslim candidate. Her occasional boast that there are “prominent Muslim leaders in the NLD ranks” has now been reduced to irrelevance after the fatal shots fired at Ko outside the arrival terminal. This minority segment was consciously excluded from Myanmar’s tryst with electoral democracy as a sop to the Buddhist nationalists. And this would appear to be at the core of the Rohingya tragedy and the anti-Muslim sentiment generally.
In death, Ko Ni symbolises that tragedy. Suu Kyi has faced international censure for her failure to criticise an ongoing army crackdown against the Muslim Rohingya minority in western Rakhine. The treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless ethnic group hundreds of thousands of whose members have fled from port to port in search of refuge, has provoked considerable anger across the Muslim world. The tragedy now extends beyond the group. It is Suu Kyi’s party that has suffered a casualty, one that emits a grave signal. It is time she spoke up.

Published : February 02, 2017

By : The Statesman Asia News Network New Delhi