World Bulletin / News Desk
Rakhine’s Maungdaw district, predominantly occupied by members of the Rohingya minority, has been under strict military control since Oct. 9 when a gang killed nine border police officials in an area close to Myanmar's western border with Bangladesh.
In an open letter to the United Nations Security Council late Thursday, 23 global icons expressed their disappointment at what they see as State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to ensure Rohingya rights.
"Despite repeated appeals to Aung San Suu Kyi, we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingya,” said the letter signed by 13 Nobel laureates and 10 global leaders.
“Ms. Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion,” it said.
Myanmar has come under heavy regional and international criticism for a military crackdown on Rohingya villagers, with human rights groups such as Amnesty International accusing the military of mass murder, looting and rape.
In the clampdown that followed the Oct. 9 deaths, aid agencies and independent journalists were denied access to majority Rohingya areas, and at least 96 people -- 17 police and soldiers, three Muslim men working closely with the local authority, and 76 alleged "attackers" (including six who reportedly died during interrogation) -- were killed and around 600 suspects detained for alleged involvement.
Rohingya advocacy groups, however, claim around 400 Rohingya -- described by the United Nations as among the most persecuted groups worldwide -- were killed in the military operations, women were raped and Rohingya villages torched.
In the statement, the leaders called on the UN to pressure the Myanmar government to lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid to the area, so people could receive emergency assistance.
"It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly,” the statement added, underlining that people may “starve to death” if aid is not granted soon.
The leaders also urged the UN Security Council to raise the situation to its official agenda as a matter of urgency, and said in the coming weeks it should prioritize a visit by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to Myanmar.
“If the current secretary-general is able to do so, we would urge him to go; if not, we encourage the new secretary-general to make it one of his first tasks after he takes office in January,” the statement said.
“As you are aware, a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar.”
Among the signatories were Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 Nobel Peace Laureate, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, business leader and philanthropist Richard Branson, and Arianna Huffington, the founder and editor of The Huffington Post.