An Oxford University college in UK has removed portrait of its former undergraduate student Aung San Suu Kyi protesting persecution of Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is under fire globally for her inaction over Rohingya discrimination that resulted in influx of 5,00,000 people of the ethnic minority to Bangladesh.The portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi was on display near the main entrance of the Oxford college where she studied as an undergraduate.
The governing body of St Hugh’s college decided to remove the painting of the Nobel laureate from its main entrance on Thursday, days before the start of the university term and the arrival of new students, reports The Guardian.
The Oxford college decision came amid allegations that Myanmar has been carrying out ethnic cleansing.
In 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi celebrated an honorary doctorate from Oxford University, and held her 67th birthday party at the college where she studied politics, philosophy and economics between 1964 and 1967, says The Guardian.
In a statement, St Hugh’s said, “The college received the gift of a new painting earlier this month which will be exhibited for a period. The painting of Aung San Suu Kyi has, meanwhile, been moved to storage.”
St Hugh’s student newsletter, The Swan, said the decision to remove the portrait was taken by the college’s governing body, which includes the college’s fellows and its principal, Dame Elish Angiolini.
But the move by St Hugh’s was described as cowardly by the Burma Campaign UK group, which urged the college to go further.
“This seems a rather cowardly action by St Hugh’s. If they have taken down the portrait because of Aung San Suu Kyi defending the Burmese military as they commit ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya they should say so and write to her urging her to respect human rights,” said Mark Farmaner, the campaign’s director.
The portrait, painted by the artist Chen Yanning in 1997, belonged to Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband, the Oxford academic Michael Aris. After Aris’s death in 1999, the portrait was bequeathed to St Hugh’s, and hung near the college’s main entrance on St Margaret’s Road in north Oxford.
As a leader of Myanmar’s opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi won a Nobel peace prize in 1991. Despite being barred from running for president, she won a decisive victory in the country’s 2015 election, and was eventually given a title of state counsellor.
Oxford council is to vote next week on stripping Aung San Suu Kyi of the freedom of the city it bestowed on her in 1997, when she was being held as a political prisoner by Myanmar’s military junta.
So far Oxford University has decided not to reconsider Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary degree. But last week the university expressed its “profound concern” over the treatment of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority.
The university said it “hopes the Myanmar administration, led by Oxford alumna Aung San Suu Kyi, can eliminate discrimination and oppression, and demonstrate to the world that Myanmar values the lives of all its citizens”.