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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of Oxford's highest order

Councillors strip the freedom of the city from Myanmar's leader because of her stance on the repression of Rohingya Muslims

Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar on Monday as officials in Oxford, UK, strip her of the freedom of the city EPA/HEIN HTET
Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar on Monday as officials in Oxford, UK, strip her of the freedom of the city EPA/HEIN HTET

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been stripped of the highest honour awarded by the British city of Oxford because of failure to deal with the suffering of the country’s the Muslim Rohingya population.

Ms Suu Kyi was awarded the Freedom of the City 20 years ago as a tribute to her stand against military rule in the country. The award by the city was particularly significant as she studied in the city and it was where her historian husband lived and their children brought up.

It is the latest snub for Ms Suu Kyi after her portrait was removed from St Hugh's College, where she studied for a degree in philosophy, politics and economics between 1964 and 1967.

"When Aung San Suu Kyi was given the Freedom of the City in 1997 it was because she reflected Oxford's values of tolerance and internationalism,” said councillor Mary Clarkson in a statement after a special council meeting. “We celebrated her for her opposition to oppression and military rule in Burma.

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"Today we have taken the unprecedented step of stripping her of her city's highest honour because of her inaction in the face of oppression of the minority Rohingya population.

"The burning of their villages has been independently confirmed by satellite images, and the UN has called the situation 'a textbook example of genocide' - yet Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any ethnic cleansing and dismissed numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as 'fake rape'.

"Oxford has a long tradition of being a diverse and humane city, and our reputation is tarnished by honouring those who turn a blind eye to violence.”

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people have fled to Bangladesh amid reports of atrocities in Rakhine at the hands of the Burmese military. Earlier this month Prime Minister Theresa May said Burma's treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority "looks like ethnic cleansing" and the country's military and governing authorities "must take full responsibility".

Her comments came after Live Aid founder Bob Geldof handed back his freedom of the city of Dublin in protest at the same honour being held by the Burmese leader.