Aung San Suu Kyi met by protesters, criticism upon receiving Freedom of London award

A demonstration against Aung San Suu Kyi, calling for baseless crime against humanity and ethnic cleansing to Rohingya people in Western Myanmar, as she arrived at Guildhall for the award ceremony of Honorary Freedom of the City of London on May 8, during an official state visit to the UK.

Aung San Suu Kyi receiving honorary freedom of the city of London at Guildhall

A group of demonstrators – the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Restlessbeings and Kachin National Organisation UK –  were protesting Burma’s treatment of Kachin people and the Muslim Rohingya minority, chanting “shame on you” and “Rohingyas are dying,” and started a petition to “denounce” and “condemn” the protests, claiming that Peoples in Rakhine State are facing very complex situation, “Suu Kyi has been working hard on implementing outcome of Dr Kofi Arnan commission recommendations.”

The demonstrators protested outside the Guildhall, as Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at Guildhall for the award ceremony of Honorary Freedom of the City of London

When the UN Human Rights Council decided to send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar, Suu Kyi rejected this under the pretext that it would further worsen the situation. She also stated that her government is investigating the abuses in Rakhine state. In fact, any investigation her government may carry out in line with its unfair laws, such as the Race and Religion Protection Laws and the law to deprive Rohingya Muslims of citizenship, will not be helpful in alleviating the suffering of these hapless people. She justifies her claims by appointing a panel, headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, to propose concrete measures to end tensions and improve the welfare of all people in Rakhine. However, Suu Kyi failed to implement the recommendations on the grounds that she cannot implement all of the recommendations at once, according to Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.

The demonstrators protested outside the Guildhall, as Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at Guildhall for the award ceremony of Honorary Freedom of the City of London

The demonstrators protested outside the Guildhall, with signs reading “Free All Political Prisoners in Burma” and “Please Stop Military Burning of Rohingya Villages”.

They chanted “Suu Kyi is lying; Rohingyas are dying” and said that people who had once supported her now opposed her.

“We believed that she would be a champion of human rights but she has been complicit with … the junta murdering innocent Rohingyas,” one speaker said.

“I’m so disappointed. She needs to stand on her moral ground—people have been dying, people have been raped,” said Ko Aung former security assistant to Suu Kyi and the organizer of event on May 8, outside of Guildhill.

The demonstrators protested outside the Guildhall, as Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at Guildhall for the award ceremony of Honorary Freedom of the City of London

When asked by the BBC if she feared being remembered as a Nobel laureate who failed to stand up to ethnic cleansing in her own country, Suu Kyi asserted, “No because I don’t think there’s ethnic cleansing going on.”

“I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening,” she said.

“What was London thinking?” asked Human Rights Watch’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

“Today Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi receives the freedom of London – but what of the freedoms she promised her own people?” said Global Witness’ Paul Donowitz.

“The civil wars she pledged to end are getting worse in the north and west, not better. Here struggles for control of the country’s vast jade sector fuels fighting and abuses by the military elites and crony companies that are meant to be a thing of the past. If she is to deliver the peace she promised Myanmar, Suu Kyi must focus on ejecting men with guns from the mines and sharing the country’s riches fairly. That needs to start at the upcoming peace talks,” Donowitz stated.

Despite decades of fighting for democracy and human rights in Burma, Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied ethnic cleansing in Muslim-majority Rakhine State since coming to power in April 2016 despite widely verified independent claims to the contrary.

Since a military crackdown began last October, the UN has claimed that more than 1,000 Rohingya have been killed in the army’s operations in Rakhine, and at least 70,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded London’s “most prestigious honour” on may 8, for her “non-violent struggle over many years for democracy and her steadfast dedication to create a society where people can live in peace, security and freedom.”

The Honorary Freedom of the City of London is the highest honour that the City of London Corporation can bestow upon an individual. When the City of London Corporation wishes to honour someone in this way, a special resolution is passed by the Court of Common Council and if it is passed, the recipient is invited to attend a special ceremony at Guildhall or the Lord Mayor’s official residence, The Mansion House, during which the Chamberlain of London admits him or her formally into the Freedom. The recipient is presented with an illuminated copy of the ‘resolution’ and a casket. Speeches are made at the ceremony by the Chamberlain of London and the recipient.

The City of London Corporation provides local government and policing services for the financial and commercial heart of Britain, the ‘Square Mile’.

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