A portrait of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been removed from the entrance of St Hugh’s College, her alma mater at the University of Oxford, amid a major humanitarian crisis in the Southeast Asian nation’s Rakhine State.
The college’s student newspaper The Swan reported last week that the portrait was replaced and moved to a “secure location” ahead of students arriving at St Hugh’s for the beginning of semester.
The Burmese State Counsellor’s image has been replaced with a painting by Japanese artist Yoshihiro Takada.
Suu Kyi studied at the University of Oxford in the 1960s. She has previously said her time at Oxford “helped me to understand the people of Burma, who wanted to live a happy life and had never been given the opportunity to live one.”
Once the hero of human rights and democracy in her home country, Suu Kyi has been widely criticised by the international community for failing to prevent ongoing violence against Burma’s stateless Rohingya Muslim population.
The United Nations has said that more than half a million Rohingya refugees have now fled into Bangladesh since violence broke out on Aug 25. The Tatmadaw military and Buddhist vigilante groups have been accused of arson, extrajudicial killings and rape.
Human rights chief of the UN has labelled the situation a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, while French President Emmanuel Macron has said genocide is being committed against Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine.
Oxford City council, meanwhile, will vote on whether to rescind Suu Kyi’s Freedom of the City – Oxford’s highest civic honour. “People are absolutely appalled at the situation in Myanmar and the way in which the Rohingya Muslims have been treated,” tweeted Oxford counsellor Tom Hayes on Monday.
In a highly-awaited ‘diplomatic briefing’ on the issue last month, Suu Kyi did not criticise Burmese security forces but rather pointed to “allegations and counter-allegations” of abuses in the Rakhine.
The State Counsellor explained long silence on the issue by stating it was not her mission to “promote conflict” but rather “harmony and understanding.”
“As she said in her speech that she wanted people in Myanmar to live a happy life, well certainly the Rohingya Muslims are not leading a happy life and she’s not said anything about that. That is not consistent with the reasons of giving her the Freedom of the City,” he said.