Critics say opposition to military’s bloody crackdown on country’s Muslim minority is silenced by fear, suspicion and propaganda
Hundreds of jubilant supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi gathered in Yangon on Tuesday to watch their country’s leader give her first public address on the Rohingya crisis.
There was no doubt over the spectators’ allegiances; many watching the public broadcast of her televised address had plastered stickers reading “stand with Aung San Suu Kyi” on their faces. Red balloons – the colour of her National League for Democracy party – rose over City Hall as she spoke.
“Worldwide, a lot of fake news and rumours are spreading,” said May Nyi Oo, 42, wearing bright red lipstick and Aung San Suu Kyi stickers on her cheeks.
More than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts in late August, prompting a massive military crackdown. The refugees have brought with them accounts of mass slaughter and arson at the hands of the soldiers and Rakhine Buddhists. The UN has called the bloody onslaught “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Those who gathered in Yangon, however, doubted the outside world’s version of events. The Rohingya minority – who are not recognised as Myanmar citizens have long been persecuted in the Buddhist majority country.