Pence Speaks Truth To Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi earned a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and global respect for enduring house arrest for years in protest of the tyrannical military government of Myanmar. Part of the tragedy of a new human rights crisis in that country is that now, as the de facto national leader, she has remained silent as the military has carried out what the United Nations has described as “ethnic cleansing” of minority Rohingya Muslims.
Vice President Mike Pence directly confronted Suu Kyi on Wednesday at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations conference in Singapore. He was right to do so and in calling Myanmar’s conduct inexcusable.
At least 10,000 Rohingya Muslims have died and more than 900,000 have fled to overwhelmed Bangladesh as the Myanmar military has cleared and burned villages, committing a long roster of atrocities in the process.
Myanmar was a global pariah until Suu Kyi’s release in 2010 sparked some reforms that prompted the United States and other nations to ease sanctions and provide aid for the impoverished country. Some of those reforms led to Suu Kyi’s election in 2015 as state counsellor. Since then, however, she has not challenged the Buddhist majority and military that have supported and carried out the atrocities.
Pence was right to apply pressure to seek accountability for the ethnic cleansing and for reforms, especially to stop persecution of a free press.
Suu Kyi, 73, faces a tough political environment. But she should understand better than anyone that tyranny doesn’t go away by itself.