Council votes to review Aung San Suu Kyi honour

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

Aung San Suu Kyi could be stripped of her Honorary Freedom of the City after the Court of Common Council voted in favour of reviewing the processes of awarding and revoking the top honour.

The de facto leader of Myanmar would be the first person to have the Freedom revoked after councillors raised concerns over her inaction in the face of the military’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine State.

The City Corporation presented Ms Suu Kyi with the accolade in May amidst a storm of controversy that saw members of the Common Council boycott the ceremony and protesters picket Guildhall.

Now the authority will investigate the possibility of revoking the award, which is the highest honour the Corporation can bestow, following a motion tabled by Portsoken councillor Munsur Ali.

In his motion, presented to the Court of Common Council on 12 October, Mr Ali called for the authority to express its “considerable disappointment at the inaction of Aung San Suu Kyi” and raised concerns over the proposal being “sprung on them without any advance notice or ability to question whether it was the right time to offer her the Honorary Freedom”.

He conceded that while the military wields considerable power in the Rakhine State, Ms Suu Kyi had “failed to suitably stand up against the horrifying genocide of [the] Rohingya minority”.

“As a consequence I feel we need to debate whether or not she is still worthy of Freedom of the City,” he said.

The motion came less than a week after Oxford City Council voted unanimously to strip Ms Suu Kyi of its own Freedom, saying it was “no longer appropriate”.

The council will hold a special meeting to remove the honour towards the end of next month. Several councillors, including Mr Ali, Thomas Anderson and Richard Crossan, have all called for the same course of action from the City, however there is currently no procedure to strip a freeman of their status.

The Freedom applications committee will now review the process and timeframe by which proposals for the Honorary Freedom are presented to the Court, and how they could be removed.

The Common Council has also vowed that the Corporation should write to the Ambassador for Myanmar, expressing its profound concern about the current situation and Ms Suu Kyi’s inaction.

A spokesperson for the City of London Corporation said: “The Court of Common Council has expressed its deep regret at the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Burma and the oppression of that country’s minority Rohingya population.”

“Following concerns raised by some elected members about the Honorary Freedom of the City of London given to Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2017, the Court approved a motion to review the procedures relating to the award of the Honorary Freedom to high-profile individuals and how, in exceptional circumstances, it could be withdrawn.”