Holding ASSK to account
With reference to Nicholas Nugent’s article ‘In the dock, the Lady stands defiant’ (Jan. 2020 issue), I think there are two ways of looking at this situation. Aung San Suu Kyi may have shocked the world by ‘defending the indefensible’ at The Hague but, from one viewpoint, this could be less harmful to her than it might first seem. By going in person to one of the world’s highest courts and very publicly defending the military, she might be seen to be trying to convince Myanmar’s army that she is not a threat, and hence gently enticing them into agreeing to some sort of democratic reforms.
In depicting herself as the guardian of Myanmar’s reputation on a global platform, Suu Kyi has also won a lot of popular support at home, which could prove helpful to her in the election later this year.
But, from another perspective, she has done terrible damage to herself. Her credibility has, for many, been eroded by her actions in The Hague.
She cannot control the military, so cannot be blamed for their offensives against the Rohingya in 2016 and 2017. But she is accountable for her own policies discriminating against the Rohingya, and for denying that human rights violations against them have taken place. This is causing reluctance among foreign countries to invest in Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi – a vocal admirer of the great Mahatma Gandhi – has already shown in the past that she is able and willing to endure great personal sacrifice for the sake of her country. Now is the time for her to show that she can do it again by forsaking her own prejudices, even at cost to herself – for the sake of the Rohingya, and for everyone else in the country.
New way of thinking
Plaudits to Sudha Ramachandran for highlighting not only the huge number of cases of sexual violence against women in India, but also the abysmal way it is handled. And she is spot on to insist that the problem is a universal one, not confined to certain countries or demographics. We must change this mindset if we want to call ourselves a civilised world.
The Pope’s dilemma on China
I read with interest the article about the Pope’s recent visit to Japan (Asian Affairs, Jan 2020). Pope Francis believes that the Catholic Church is called to promote dialogue among different nations, cultures and faiths and in this spirit, the Pope has made frequent visits to Asia. The writer Duncan Bartlett raised the question of the Vatican’s relations with Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. To date, the Holy See has had no formal relations with the PRC, and is one of the fifteen polities currently giving diplomatic recognition to the Republic of China, the official name for Taiwan.
Nevertheless, Pope Francis seems convinced that the Vatican must proactively engage with the PRC. In order to break the impasse, he has launched an unprecedented charm offensive towards Beijing. Important progress has been achieved on the appointment of Catholic bishops in China. Yet significant obstacles remain. The Chinese Communist Party continues to restrict Catholics from worshipping freely on the mainland. And if Beijing remains unwavering in demanding that the Holy See conforms to its One China policy – by severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan – the Vatican will be obliged to decide whether to compromise on some aspects of its mission to Asia, for the sake of a perceived greater good.