Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of Honorary Freedom

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi being escorted out of the Old Library at the end of the Honorary Freedom ceremony by Sir Alan Yarrow and Sheriff of London Peter Estlin. Photo: credit: Clive Totman

Elected Members of the City of London Corporation’s Court of Common Council have voted to revoke the Honorary Freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi with immediate effect.

Burma’s state counsellor was awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City of London at a ceremony at Guildhall in May 2017 in recognition of her ‘non-violent struggle over many years for democracy and her steadfast dedication to create a society where people can live in peace, security and freedom’.

But she has faced international condemnation over her failure to denounce the military for its treatment of Rohingya people amid widespread reports of their abuse in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), where she is de facto leader.

The motion was tabled at the court in the City’s Guildhall by councillor and film-maker Munsur Ali, who has visited Rohingya refugee camps.

Ms Suu Kyi was celebrated in the past as a figure for freedom after she spent years under house arrest as a democracy campaigner while the country was being ruled by a military dictatorship.

While the offer of a Freedom of the City had been made years earlier to Ms Suu Kyi, she finally accepted it in May 2017.

Some councillors boycotted the ceremony at the time, and the question of whether to explore the process to revoke the honour has been under deliberation for the past year.

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Protesters at Guildhall during the ceremony to award Aung San Suu Kyi an Honorary Freedom of the City in May 2017

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Sir David Wootton, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Freedom applications committee, said: “Today’s unprecedented decision reflects the City Corporation’s condemnation of the humanitarian abuses carried out in Myanmar, which have been detailed during the recent genocide hearing in The Hague, at which Aung San Suu Kyi led the delegation of the Government of Myanmar, and gave evidence.

“The Freedom Applications Committee concluded that the argument for the removal of the award had been much strengthened by Aung San Suu Kyi’s close association with Myanmar’s government at the hearing, as well as her lack of response to letters from the Freedom applications committee.”

Previous recipients of the City of London Corporation’s highest award include Winston Churchill, Florence Nightingale, William Pitt the Elder, and more recently, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and Professor Stephen Hawking.

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