As far as I know, I am one of the very first persons to criticize Aung San Suu Kyi publicly. This occurred in my first Dictator Watch statement, from February 2002 – End the Dialogue: An Open Letter to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
At that time, pretty much everyone supported her. I think a few people from the ethnic nationalities were suspicious, about her lack of cooperation with them, but this is Burma after all. No one was going to confront her, and cause her to lose face. I realized that it would be useful to say what people of the country, because of social form, were too deferential to mention.
In the statement I was exceedingly polite. I just pointed out that you can’t negotiate with tyrants, certainly from a position of weakness. She was involved in a “dialogue” with the dictatorship, which had released some political prisoners to give her ammunition that the approach might yield real results. To my knowledge, this was the first time they “played” her, used her to reduce the domestic and international pressure that their human rights atrocities generated. But it was absolutely clear that the regime was not sincere, that the release was a token step, and that the dialogue would never change anything. Now, fifteen years later, she is still following the same failed strategy.
My criticism subsequently became much more pointed, when she betrayed the pro-democracy movement by re-registering the NLD in 2011, ending her election boycott; when she ignored the new Burma Army offensives in the North against the Kachin and other groups, also starting that year; and when she refused to condemn the Muslim pogroms that were perpetrated the following year, and which grew into the Rohingya genocide. I called her “the worst person in Burma,” and then compared her to Dictator Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe, who similarly changed from being a resistance leader to an authoritarian ruler. Now, she has even progressed from surrendering to the generals to actively covering-up and attempting to justify their crimes.
The people of Burma have to throw off their reservations and oppose her forcefully. Let your voices be heard in London and elsewhere around the world, and most importantly inside Burma itself. If she has her way, you will always be dominated by the Tatmadaw.
You will never know true freedom. There will be no peace, and the crimes against humanity will never cease.
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