Canadian MPs vote to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of honorary citizenship

The Canadian parliament has voted unanimously to strip Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s civilian leader, of her honorary citizenship after global criticism of her handling of the Rohingya crisis. 

Ottawa had awarded the symbolic honour, which does not afford Canadian rights or privileges, to the Nobel laureate in 2007 after she endured years of house arrest as a political prisoner. 

The vote in the House of Commons lower chamber means that she will no longer be a member of an elite group of only five other honorary Canadians, which includes Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, and the Dalai Lama. 

The decision, which must still be ratified by the Senate, comes one week after another unanimous vote by Canadian MPs to declare the Burmese military campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority a genocide. 

The Burmese army is accused of mass killings, rape and arson in a brutal crackdown last year which drove more than 700,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh, where they now live in cramped refugee camps. 

A spokesman for Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, confirmed to the Globe and Mail that the government supported the motion to revoke Ms Suu Kyi’s citizenship in response to “her continued failure to speak out against the genocide of the Rohingya, a crime being committed by the military with which she shares power.”

Ms Suu Kyi was previously called out by a searing United Nations investigation for failing to use her “moral authority” to prevent violence against the Rohingya minority. 

The investigation by three independent UN experts, which concludes that Burma’s top generals should be tried for genocide, and the case referred to the International Criminal Court, was presented to the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva last week. 

The rights body voted on Thursday to set up an independent panel to prepare criminal indictments over the atrocities committed in Burma. 

Thirty-five of the council’s 47 members supported a text that mandates the panel to prepare "files in order to facilitate and expedite fair and independent criminal proceedings… in national, regional or international courts or tribunals."

Only three countries – China, the Philippines and Burundi – voted against the resolution. 

Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary, welcomed the decision as a “step forward” for establishing justice. 

“Saw for myself in Rakhine that real accountability for atrocities requires this new mechanism to secure the evidence. Burma has been a priority for us her at #UNGA so the decision by @UN_HRC today is great news. Step forward but much more to do,” he said on Twitter. 

The military has denied nearly all wrongdoing, justifying its crackdown as a legitimate means of rooting out Rohingya militants.