Canada strips Aung San Suu Kyi of honorary citizenship

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s international reputation has become tarnished by her refusal to call out the atrocities by her nation’s military against the Rohingya Muslims minority. (AFP)
Updated 28 September 2018

Canada strips Aung San Suu Kyi of honorary citizenship

  • Ottawa had given the long-detained democracy advocate and Nobel laureate the rare honor in 2007
  • Honorary Canadian citizenship has only been granted to five others including the Dalai Lama, girls education advocate Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela

OTTAWA: Canada’s parliament voted unanimously on Thursday to effectively strip Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship over the Rohingya crisis.
Ottawa had given the long-detained democracy advocate and Nobel laureate the rare honor in 2007.
But her international reputation has become tarnished by her refusal to call out the atrocities by her nation’s military against the Rohingya Muslims minority, which Ottawa last week declared a genocide.
“In 2007, the House of Commons granted Aung San Suu Kyi the status of honorary Canadian citizen. Today, the House unanimously passed a motion to remove this status,” said Adam Austen, spokesman for Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.
A brutal military campaign that started last year drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh, where they now live in cramped refugee camps — fearful of returning to mainly Buddhist Myanmar despite a repatriation deal.
Many have given accounts of extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and arson.
The military has denied nearly all wrongdoing, justifying its crackdown as a legitimate means of rooting out Rohingya militants.
But after a fact-finding mission, the UN on Thursday set up a panel to prepare indictments against Myanmar’s army chief and five other top military commanders for crimes against humanity.
Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government remains in a delicate power balance with the generals, whose presence in parliament gives them an effective veto on constitutional changes.
Austen cited Suu Kyi’s “persistent refusal to denounce the Rohingya genocide” for the withdrawal of the Canadian honor, which is symbolic and comes with no special privileges.
“We will continue to support the Rohingyas by providing humanitarian assistance, imposing sanctions against Myanmar’s generals and demanding that those responsible be held accountable before a competent international body,” he added.
Honorary Canadian citizenship has only been granted to five others including the Dalai Lama, girls education advocate Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela.


Rights group draws attention to heavy smog in Pakistan

Updated 22 November 2019

Rights group draws attention to heavy smog in Pakistan

  • Amnesty says Pakistani officials’ inadequate response to the smog raises significant human rights concerns
  • Lahore is considered one of the world’s most polluted cities

LAHORE: Tens of thousands of people in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore are at risk of respiratory disease because of poor air quality related to thick smog hanging over the region, an international rights group said Friday.
Amnesty International called for “urgent action” for residents of Lahore in a bid to mobilize supporters around the world to campaign on their behalf due to smog that has engulfed the city of more than 10 million people over the past week.
Amnesty says Pakistani officials’ inadequate response to the smog raises significant human rights concerns.
“The hazardous air is putting everyone’s right to health at risk,” said Rimmel Mohydin, South Asia Campaigner at Amnesty. “The issue is so serious that we are calling on our members around the world to write to the Pakistani authorities to tell them to stop downplaying the crisis and take urgent action to protect people’s health and lives.”
Once known as the “city of gardens,” Lahore is considered one of the world’s most polluted cities, where many residents have been forced to stay at home.
Mohydin said on one out of every two days since the beginning of November the air quality in Lahore has been classified as “hazardous” by air quality monitors installed by the United States Consulate in Lahore and the Pakistan Air Quality Initiative.
She said people in Lahore have not had healthy air for a single day this year and that the air quality deteriorated to “hazardous” levels in November. Air quality measuring systems advise people to avoid all outdoor activity when that happens.
Air becomes unhealthy when the Air Quality Index level reaches 100. Mohydin said at 300 and above, the air is considered “hazardous” and the Air Quality Index in Lahore skyrocketed to 598 on Thursday.
She said the so-called “smog season,” which runs from October to February, is when poor fuel quality, uncontrolled emissions and crop burning worsens the quality of the already unhealthy air in eastern Punjab Province, where Lahore is the capital.
Authorities in Lahore and elsewhere in the province have asked parents not to send their children to school on Friday to avoid being in the bad air.
Pakistan often blames farmers in neighboring India for burning waste from their crops in open farms fields.
“The fast blowing winds brought thick smog from India to Lahore and the international community should pressure India to take measures for controlling air pollution as it also affects us,” said Naseem-Ur-Rahman Shah, who heads the provincial Environment Protection Department in Punjab.
It’s a popular practice among poor farmers in Pakistan and India to set fire to remnants of the previous season’s crop before preparing their land for the next planting. Punjab Province is considered Pakistan’s breadbasket.
Rahman said thousands of people were treated this week at hospitals and private clinics for respiratory-related diseases, including asthma, flu, fever and cough.
“People should not expose themselves to smog because it is harmful,” he said. “We are also taking steps to control air pollution in Punjab.”
But many residents in Lahore blame the government for not taking adequate measures to contain air pollution.
“I can show you several factories releasing smoke in the heart of Lahore. I can show you brick kilns on the outskirts of Lahore and you can see smoke-emitting vehicles everywhere,” said 23-year-old Mohammad Abdullah, a college student, as he sat in a bed at Mayo Hospital after having breathing problems.
Uzma Tareen, 56, also complained she had to come to the same hospital on a smoke-emitting rikshaw as she could not afford a taxi.
“Doctors say smog will end when rains come so I am praying for rain,” she said. “I don’t expect any action from the government to control toxic air.”