The Oxford City Council has threatened it will withdraw Burma (Myanmar) leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s Freedom of the City – its highest civic honour – if she does not act regarding the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State.
“We are deeply concerned and angered by the attacks on Rohingya Muslims in your country which have been widely reported,” said Oxford’s Lord Mayor Jean Fooks and the Council Leader Bob Price in a statement.
“The people of Oxford were please that you were able to accept in person the Freedom of our City … in 2012,” it said. “That freedom was granted in 1997 in recognition of your long struggle for democracy in Burma and because of your personal associations with our city.”
Suu Kyi studied at the University of Oxford in the 1960s. She has previously said her time at Oxford “helped me to understand the people of Burma, who wanted to live a happy life and had never been given the opportunity to live one.”
“It is therefore very distressing that you have failed to live up to the reputation and beliefs that we associated with you,” continued the statement from Oxford Council. “There is widespread outrage in Oxford at the attacks on the Rohingya in Myanmar.”
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled Burma into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, since Aug 25.
Satellite images that Human Rights Watch released on Monday show tens of thousands of homes in some 214 Rohingya villages destroyed across the Rakhine.
There have been widespread calls to revoke Suu Kyi’s Nobel Prize amid violence in the Rakhine and her failure to publicly defend the rights of Rohingya.
Fellow Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai – who incidentally was recently accepted into Oxford University – has urged Suu Kyi to condemn and stop violence as well as grant Rohingya Muslims citizenship.
Suu Kyi addressed the Rohingya crisis in a televised address on Tuesday in which she stopped short of criticising the Burmese military over alleged human rights abuses.
Labour Councillor Tom Hayes tweeted the statement, noting that “Aung San Suu Kyi says Oxford means a lot to her. Rights mean a lot to Oxford City. Unless she acts, we’ll withdraw her Freedom of the City.”