Ashwini Bhatia / AP

Dalai Lama urges Aung San Suu Kyi to act on Rohingya

Despite thousands of persecuted Rohingya fleeing by boat from Myanmar, human rights hero Suu Kyi remains silent

The Dalai Lama has urged fellow Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to help Myanmar's persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority amid a worsening migration crisis.

"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 published Thursday ahead of a visit to Australia next week.

Despite thousands of Rohingya fleeing on harrowing boat journeys to Southeast Asia to escape poverty and discriminatory treatment by the country's Buddhist majority, opposition leader Suu Kyi, who is celebrated as a human rights and democracy champion, has not yet commented on their plight.

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader said she must speak up, adding that he had already appealed to her to do more on their behalf twice, in person, since 2012, when deadly sectarian violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state saw violent attacks by Buddhist extremist groups against the Rohingya.

“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,” The Dalai Lama said.

“But in spite of that I feel she can do something.”

The issue was thrown into the spotlight this month when thousands of Rohingya, together with Bangladeshi migrants, were rescued on Southeast Asian shores after fleeing by boat.

The Dalai Lama, perhaps the world's most famous refugee, said, 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.

The crisis has shone a spotlight on the dire conditions and discrimination faced by the roughly one million Rohingya in western Myanmar.

The ethnic minority was stripped of citizenship in the 1980s, and since then has been widely viewed by the Buddhist majority as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The Rohingya have been a subject of frequent racist propaganda and blistering violence from the country's extremist Buddhist groups.

Since the 2012 clashes between the Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya, some 100,000 Rohingya were forced into squalid camps and systematically denied aid. Suu Kyi has denied that the Rohingya have been subject to ethnic cleansing, and has been silent on the issue since thousands of refugees began fleeing persecution.

Malaysia has been a favorite destination for the Rohingya. Migrants often travel 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.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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