Australian actress Cate Blanchett says she is bewildered by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence over the atrocities being committed against Rohingya Muslims.
More than 670,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have sought safety across the border in Bangladesh since August 2017, after a military campaign against the minority group that a U.N. official has previously called genocide.
Oscar-winning actress Blanchett visited some of the displaced Muslims from Myanmar last week in her capacity as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. The Australian star warns that thousands of refugees are at risk of disease and starvation as the monsoon season approaches. The Rohingya are not recognized as citizens by Myanmar and have lived under a segregated ethnic system in the country’s western Rakhine state for decades.
Blanchett, who is also goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is criticizing Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader, for not speaking out over the crisis.
“It is bewildering, is it not, that someone who has been such a fighter for even a fragile democracy, someone who upholds human rights, does not seem to be speaking out more clearly about the atrocities that are so very clearly happening under her watch. The most pressing thing for me is the need to support the refugees in the very immediate present as the monsoon comes. Obviously, political solutions are absolutely vital,” Blanchett said.
Aung San Suu Kyi was in Australia earlier this month for the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, where she was also criticized by the Malaysian Prime Minister. In unusually stern language, Najib Razak said Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims put them at risk of radicalization by extremists because they have no hope for the future.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Aung San Suu Kyi had addressed the controversy during private talks with other South-East Asian leaders in Sydney.
Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest for many years by Myanmar’s military dictators before the country embraced democracy. The author and winner of a Nobel Peace Prize was widely thought to be the champion of human rights and tolerance in Myanmar, although her reputation has clearly been dented by the Rohingya crisis.