- Andrew HollingerDirector, Communications202.437.1221
March 6, 2018
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
via H.E. Ambassador Aung Lynn
Embassy of Myanmar
2300 S Street, NW
Washington, DC, 20008
Dear State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,
As a living memorial to the Holocaust, the Museum’s mission is to inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Preventing genocide is at the core of our work every day. Based on inspiration that you created for millions around the world, with your long resistance to military dictatorship, and your advocacy for freedom and human rights for all the people of Myanmar, we were honored to present you with the first Elie Wiesel Award in 2012. It is with great regret that we are now rescinding that award. We did not take this decision lightly.
In recent years, the Museum has been closely monitoring the military’s campaign against the Rohingya and your response to it. In November 2013, we held a public event at the Museum to call attention to our growing concerns, titled: “Our Walls Bear Witness: The Plight of Burma’s Rohingya.” Since that time, we have undertaken numerous visits to Myanmar and Bangladesh to obtain firsthand evidence so that we can fully understand the extent of the persecution and crimes committed, as well as the motivations and actions of all the responsible parties.
In May 2015, we published “They Want Us All to Go Away,” which documented the early warning signs of genocide. Last November, we released detailed findings based on research on the ground documenting crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and what we termed “mounting evidence of genocide” committed by the Myanmar military against Rohingya civilians since October 2016. Regrettably over the last five years the situation has become progressively worse and today seems untenable for the Rohingya population.
As the military’s attacks against the Rohingya unfolded in 2016 and 2017, we had hoped that you—as someone we and many others have celebrated for your commitment to human dignity and universal human rights—would have done something to condemn and stop the military’s brutal campaign and to express solidarity with the targeted Rohingya population.
The National League for Democracy, under your leadership, has instead refused to cooperate with United Nations investigators, promulgated hateful rhetoric against the Rohingya community, and denied access to and cracked down on journalists trying to uncover the scope of the crimes in Rakhine State.
We understand the difficult situation you must face in confronting decades of military misrule and violence in your country and that institution’s still powerful constitutional role. However, the military’s orchestration of the crimes against Rohingya and the severity of the atrocities in recent months demand that you use your moral authority to address this situation. While Myanmar has taken important first steps on the road to democracy, any transition that does not protect the country’s most vulnerable communities will be deeply flawed.
As we have said in the past, we urge you to use your unique standing and your official role as State Counsellor and Foreign Minister to cooperate with international efforts, such as the Fact-Finding Mission mandated by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the work of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, to establish the truth about the atrocities committed in Rakhine State and secure accountability for perpetrators.
We also urge you to lead an effort to review and amend the 1982 Citizenship Law, which has rendered most Rohingya stateless, so that it is aligned with international standards and allows equal access to full citizenship rights regardless of ethnicity. You can expand access for both local and international aid workers to administer life-saving assistance. Finally, we urge you to condemn the hateful, dehumanizing language directed toward the Rohingya.
As a living memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, the Museum stands in solidarity with victims of genocide and atrocity crimes and attempts to do for victims today what was not done for the Jews of Europe. As Elie Wiesel said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.”
Sara J. Bloomfield