Myanmar’s Leader Needs to Lead

Who speaks for them?

Photographer: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s iconic leader, is sacrificing her moral authority for political expediency. By failing to speak out against repression — and, more broadly, by not doing enough to help her country grow and prosper — she risks losing both her power and her reputation.

Suu Kyi, whose years leading the resistance to the Burmese junta earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, has dismayed former admirers by refusing to stop or even denounce what the United Nations calls “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” in her own country. Ever since militant members of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority attacked police stations and an army camp last month, security forces and local Buddhist vigilantes appear to have launched a brutal campaign against them. Hundreds of Rohingya have been killed, and nearly 300,000 refugees have fled across the border to makeshift camps in Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi, mindful of the near-universal loathing of the Rohingya among Myanmar’s other communities, has blasted global criticism of this crisis as fake news; officials have accused Rohingya of setting fire to their own villages. Critics, some of whom have called on the Nobel committee to strip Suu Kyi of her prize, are right to take her to task.