The Dalai Lama has urged fellow Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a main opposition leader in Myanmar, to do more to help protect the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority in her country amid a worsening migration crisis.
Despite thousands of Rohingya fleeing on harrowing boat journeys to Southeast Asia to escape a wave of deadly attacks and discriminatory treatment by the country’s Buddhist majority, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has yet to speak out against their plight.
The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said on Thursday she must voice her opposition to the persecution, adding that he had already appealed twice to her in person since 2012, when deadly sectarian violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state pitted the Rohingya against local Buddhists, to do more on their behalf.
“It’s very sad. In the Burmese (Myanmar) case I hope Aung San Suu Kyi, as a Nobel laureate, can do something,” he told The Australian newspaper in an interview in advance of a visit to Australia next week.
“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,” he added.
Analysts have attributed her silence to fears about alienating voters in the lead-up to elections set for November.
The Rohingya crisis was thrown into the international spotlight this month when thousands of the minority group, together with Bangladeshi migrants, were rescued on Southeast Asian shores after fleeing by boat.
It has drawn attention to the dire conditions and discrimination faced by the roughly one million Rohingya in western Myanmar, a group widely seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
The Dalai Lama, perhaps the world’s most famous refugee, added from his exile in the Indian Himalayas that it was not enough to ask how to help the Rohingya.
“This is not sufficient. There’s something wrong with humanity’s way of thinking. Ultimately we are lacking concern for others’ lives, others’ well-being,” he said.
Malaysia has been a favourite destination for the Rohingya. Migrants often travelled to Thailand by boat, then overland to northern Malaysia.
But Thailand began a crackdown on smuggling following the discovery of mass graves there, which appears to have thrown regional human-trafficking routes into chaos.
More than 3,500 migrants have arrived on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil in recent weeks, and hundreds or thousands more are feared still trapped on boats.
Seven camps – some with dozens of graves believed to contain the bodies of Rohingya – have been uncovered in Thailand’s Songkhla province close to the Malaysian border.