The Dalai Lama has appealed to Myanmar’s Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up for the country’s persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority amid a worsening refugee crisis.
The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the world’s most famous refugee, told The Australian he was alarmed and saddened by the predicament of thousands of men, women and children still believed to be stranded at sea after weeks of being bounced between hostile nations.
“It’s not sufficient to say: ‘How to help these people?’,” he said from his office in the Indian Himalayan hill station of McLeod Ganj, where he has lived in exile since his escape from Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959. “This is not sufficient. There’s something wrong with humanity’s way of thinking. Ultimately we are lacking concern for others’ lives, others’ wellbeing.”
He said there could be no justification for violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar against an estimated 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, who have been denied citizenship and subjected to violent persecution by the state and extreme Buddhist elements.
Myanmar’s government has consistently refused to discuss its treatment of its Rohingya population in international forums, but has bowed to pressure to join a Bangkok-hosted meeting of 29 nations to discuss the refugee crisis tomorrow.
The Dalai Lama appealed to all of Myanmar’s Buddhists to “remember the face of the Buddha” when dealing with the minority, sometimes referred to as the world’s “least-wanted” population. He said he had already appealed twice to Ms Suu Kyi in person to speak out on behalf of the Rohingya since 2012, when deadly interreligious violence broke out in Rakhine state near the Bangladeshi border.
“It’s very sad. In the Burmese case I hope Aung San Suu Kyi, as a Nobel laureate, can do something,” he said of the persecution.
“I met her two times, first in London and then the Czech Republic. I mentioned about this problem and she told me she found some difficulties, that things were not simple but very complicated.
“But in spite of that I feel she can do something.”
Ms Suu Kyi, 69, who spent 15 years under house arrest for criticising Myanmar’s former military junta, has defended her silence on Rohingya persecution by saying she is a politician and not a human rights champion.
Extreme Buddhist nationalists have justified their violent targeting of Rohingya as a means of defending Asia’s shrinking Buddhist territory. But the Dalai Lama said there was “no value” in actions that harmed others.