LONDON — Irish rock singer Bob Geldof says he is returning his Freedom of the City of Dublin honour because it is also held by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accusing her of complicity for what he and others, including the United Nations, call “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims in the Asian nation.
The founder of Live Aid says Suu Kyi is a “handmaiden to genocide” whose association with Ireland’s capital “shames us all.”
Suu Kyi is a Nobel peace laureate for her leadership of the democracy movement in Myanmar but she has come under widespread criticism as her country’s civilian leader because of violence that has caused many in the Rohingya minority to flee the country.
In a statement, Geldof says he will turn his award in at City Hall on Monday morning. He says he is a “proud Dubliner” and does not want the ceremonial title while Suu Kyi also holds it.
He says that “her association with our city shames us all and we should have no truck with it, even by default.”
Myanmar is a Buddhist-majority country that doesn’t recognize Rohingya as an ethnic group, contending they are Bengali migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh living illegally in the country. It denies them citizenship, leaving them stateless.
The latest violence began with a series of attacks Aug. 25 by Rohingya insurgents that was followed by attacks by Myanmar security forces on Rohingya villages that the U.N. and human rights groups have criticized as a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Suu Kyi was awarded the Dublin honour in 1999 for her work to bring democracy to Myanmar, but she didn’t formally receive it until a visit in 2012, when she was also feted with a concert organized by Amnesty International.
In a speech this past September, Suu Kyi urged the international community to be patient over the crisis, and also suggested that the fleeing Rohingya were partly responsible.