The head of the Nobel Foundation has described Aung San Suu Kyi’s actions taken in Myanmar as regrettable but reiterated that her Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991, will not be withdrawn, Reuters reported on Monday. It makes no sense to take away awards in reaction to things that took place after they were given, Lars Heikensten told the news agency in an interview on Friday.
There have been demands to revoke Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize after violence and large-scale persecution of the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar.
“We see what she’s been doing in Myanmar has been questioned a lot and we stand for human rights, that’s one of our core values,” Heikensten said. “So of course to the extent that she’s responsible for that, that is very regrettable.”
He added: “We don’t believe it would make sense to try to withdraw prizes...it would involve us in constant discussions about the merits about what people are doing afterwards, after they have received the prize.” He said the Nobel Foundation cannot avoid laureates doing things it disapproves of after they win the prize. “There has always been and there always will be” such instances, he said.
In August, United Nations investigators said Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gangrapes with “genocidal intent”, and the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law. Aung San Suu Kyi is the country’s de facto leader.
After the UN report, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said it would not withdraw the prize awarded to Suu Kyi. Myanmar has refuted the UN’s claims, saying the international community is making false allegations.
Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to stand up for more than one million stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, many of whom fled to neighbouring countries. Myanmar treats Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and does not acknowledge their rights as an official ethnic group. The community has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar and the Army.
Suu Kyi has avoided any critical comment of Myanmar’s military. Previously, Oxford, Glasgow, Dublin and Newcastle have revoked Suu Kyi’s Freedom of the City awards. In March, the United States Holocaust Museum also revoked a human rights award it had given her in 2012.