Canada has formally stripped Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship over her inaction on military violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslims.
Canadian senators on Tuesday unanimously passed a measure revoking her citizenship and declaring the treatment of Rohingyas by Myanmar’s government to be a genocide.
The same actions were unanimously approved last week by the House of Commons.
The honour was bestowed on Suu Kyi in 2007 for her pro-democracy campaign in Myanmar, where she spent 15 years under house arrest under the former military government. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
Now, she has become the first person to have her honorary Canadian citizenship revoked. The votes were prompted in part by a UN investigation that in August called for six top generals in Myanmar to be tried on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. It also found that Suu Kyi had failed in her duty to protect her own citizens.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017, when Myanmar’s Buddhist-majority security forces began a violent campaign in Rakhine state that included executions, gang rape, and the burning of hundreds of villages.
About 10,000 people have been killed, the UN said.
The UN fact-finding mission condemned Suu Kyi for failing to use her power or moral authority to stem or prevent the genocide and fulfil her responsibility to protect the civilian population. Instead, civilian authorities spread false narratives, allowed hate speech to flourish, and blocked independent investigations, the report said.
“Stripping her of her honorary citizenship may not make a tangible difference to her, but it sends an important symbolic message,” said Senator Ratna Omidvar, who introduced the motion in the Canadian chamber.
“She has been complicit in stripping the citizenship and the security of thousands of Rohingya, which has led to their flight, their murder, their rapes and their current deplorable situation.”
Omidvar also cited the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the atrocities. Suu Kyi has defended the judge’s verdict and sentence in that case.
(With inputs from Reuters)