Amnesty International takes back its highest honor from Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi has had other honours withdrawn including the freedom of the city of Dublin

Amnesty International has stripped de facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour in light of the Nobel laureate's "shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for".

More than 720,000 Rohingya fled the Buddhist majority's western Rakhine State in a military crackdown since August past year, with most seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.

But her tenure has been marred by a failure to speak up for Rohingya Muslims who were driven out of the country by the army in what the United Nations has called an ethnic cleansing campaign.

"As an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself", wrote Kumi Naidoo.

Suu Kyi's administration rejected the findings as one-sided, and said the military action was engaged in a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.

Amnesty's secretary-general Kumi Naidoo, wrote to Suu Kyi confirming her award would be withdrawn and that the organisation felt "profoundly dismayed" that she no longer represented "a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defence of human rights".

The worldwide human rights group named Suu Kyi as its 2009 Ambassador of Conscience Award recipient when she was still under house arrest for her opposition to Myanmar's oppressive military junta.

Mahathir made his remarks less than an hour before standing alongside Suu Kyi for a stoney-faced photo shoot at the start of the ASEAN regional summit in Singapore, the kind of diplomatic gathering where she was once feted by contemporaries as a beacon of democracy.

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Many are believed to have been either murdered or tortured and raped.

Such moves would only "make the people love her more", he added.

The civilian government has "considerable authority" to enact reforms to better protect human rights, especially those relating to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, Amnesty said. But in the two-and-a-half years since Aung San Suu Kyi's administration assumed power, human rights defenders, peaceful activists and journalists have been arrested and imprisoned, while others face threats, harassment and intimidation for their work.

Once hailed as a champion in the fight for democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi has been stripped of a series of global honours over a Rohingya exodus that began in August 2017.

However UN investigators have called for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide and accused Suu Kyi's civilian government of complicity. Her administration has actively stirred up hostility against the Rohingya, labelling them "terrorists" and accusing them of burning their own homes and "faking rape".

"The prize was awarded for her humanity, her stand against human rights abuses. what we've seen since August past year has just been a shocking denial of what is happening in Rakhine state". It was not an easy decision for us.

She has yet to comment on Amnesty's decision herself but has in the past shrugged off questions about withdrawn awards.

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