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Geldof returns Dublin award in protest against Suu Kyi

November 13, 2017

Bob Geldof has returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin as a protest against Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who also holds the honor. The Irish singer labeled Suu Kyi a "handmaiden to genocide."

Bob Geldof arrives to return his Freedom of the City of Dublin
Image: Reuters/C. Kilcoyne

Bob Geldof on Monday returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin scroll, saying that the city of Dublin had "been duped" into bestowing Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi with the same award.

"Dublin shouldn't have any link with this woman," the musician and founder of the Live Aid charity said he returned the prize at Dublin's City Hall.

Read more: Rohingya people in Myanmar: what you need to know

In an earlier statement, Geldof, who born and raised close to the Irish capital, said that Suu Kyi's "association with our city shames us all."

"In my time, I have walked amongst peoples who were sectionally targeted with ethnic cleansing," he said. "I would be a hypocrite now were I to share honors with one who has become at best an accomplice to murder, complicit in ethnic cleansing and a handmaiden to genocide."

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has faced international criticism for failing to condemn the Myanmar military's violent clearance operations in Rakhine State, which has seen more than 600,00 Rohingya Muslims flee into Bangladesh since August. 

Myanmar officials say that the operations are a response to the deadly attacks on police posts by the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. However, Myanmar soldiers have accused of mass rape, arson and murder, while the UN and several rights bodies have likened the military operations to ethnic cleansing.

UN official: Myanmar rights atrocities to be raised at ICC

The UN could be prepared to step up pressure on Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy party, after a UN official said she would raise the allegations of organized rape and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Read more: Rohingya crisis: UN Security Council calls on Myanmar to stop excessive military force

"When I return to New York, I will brief and raise the issue with the prosecutor and president of the ICC whether they (Myanmar's military) can be held responsible for these atrocities," said Pramila Patten, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Her remarks came on the back of a three-day visit the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar region.

Children refugee numbers mount as result of Rohingya crisis

According to Patten, sexual violence had become a staple in military's the collective persecution of the Rohingya minority, alongside the killing of adults of children, torture, mutilation and looting and burning down of villages.

"The forms of sexual violence we consistently heard about from survivors include gang-rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation, and sexual slavery in military captivity," she said.

Myanmar ousts its Rakhine military chief

Following the UN delegate's comments, the Myanmar military announced that it was replacing its general in charge of Rakhine State. No official reason was given for Major General Maung Maung Soe's transfer, while one military official told the Reuters news agency that he hadn't been moved into another position.

Read more: Watching the Rohingya crisis through WhatsApp

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Myanmar on Wednesday, where he is expected to deliver a stern message to the country's generals charged with overseeing the supposed counter-insurgency. Meanwhile, Washington senators are debating whether to impose economic and travel sanctions targeting Myanmar's military and its business interests.

Drone images show thousands of Rohingya fleeing

dm/rt (dpa, AFP, Reuters)