Revoke Aung San Suu Kyi's honorary doctorates from Australian universities

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As concerned students and members of the public, we petition the Australian National University, Monash University, University of Technology Sydney and the University of Sydney to rescind their awards of honorary doctorates to Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

The awarding of these doctorates was due to Suu Kyi’s commitment and championing of human rights, democracy and freedom. For example, at the time in 2013 UYSD Vice-Chancellor Dr. Michael Spence declared that Suu Kyi was “a major symbol of democracy around the world” while ANU Chancellor Professor Gareth Evans praised Suu Kyi as a “a champion of a peaceful path to a better and more just world”.

However, Suu Kyi’s response to the recent wave of genocidal actions against the Rohingya minority of Myanmar has fatally undermined the values she once upheld. This is not an issue over which a lack of clarity would justify inaction. The top United Nations human rights official has called this crisis “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing”, while a special UN Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar lambasted the “genocidal intent” of the Burmese military in its purge of one million Rohingya. The violence against the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities is indiscriminate, widespread, systematic and deliberate.

As de-facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi’s response has been wilfully ignorant at best, and complicit at worst. She has failed, not just to condemn, but even to recognise the atrocities. She has even blamed the Rohingyas for the violence inflicted upon them. The UN Fact Finding Mission directly criticised Suu Kyi as having “not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population”. Suu Kyi’s silence and complicity render her previous moral standing invalid.

There is strong precedence for rescinding honours.  The College Suu Kyi attended at Oxford, St Hugh’s College, has taken down a portrait of her and renamed their Common Room. In March 2018, the University of Queensland Student Union voted to rename its central building, previously named in her honour. The British cities of Oxford, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Glasgow, have retracted their ‘Freedom of the City’ awards presented to Aung San Suu Kyi. The Freedom of Dublin City Award was revoked in Ireland. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has rescinded its top honour, the Elie Wiesel Award.  UNISON, the largest trade union in the United Kingdom also suspended its top award given to Suu Kyi. The Canadian Parliament recently voted unanimously to strip Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship. In October 2018, Clareton University of Canada rescinded its honorary degree awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi.

A similar step by these four named Universities would be a strong signal, example and act of solidarity. We urge the Universities and their relevant bodies to follow suit by revoking these honorary doctorates to offer hope for justice to the genocide survivors. We must take a stand against injustice, however we can. We hope this letter is considered with compassion, concern and urgency.