Analysis. The Nobel prize winner and the xenophobic authoritarian find common ground during Suu Kyi’s state visit: ‘Both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of coexistence with continuously growing Muslim populations.’

Aung San Suu Kyi and Orbán agree on danger of ‘growing Muslim populations’

Yet another ugly story has come out from Aung San Suu Kyi’s European trip, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former human rights heroine who has been at the center of heated controversy for the past three years, since the forced exodus to Bangladesh of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar began.

Now, the total number of refugees from Myanmar, counting both the old and the new, has surpassed one million, and there are hardly any Rohingya left in the country. However, for Aung San Suu Kyi, the international condemnations she has already received apparently were not enough: she went to meet Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian Prime Minister who has become famous for his hyper-nationalist and racist sovereignism.

Due to the notoriety of the two figures, the news of their meeting has travelled around the world. For instance, the Catalan daily La Vanguardia wondered: “What brings together a Nobel prize winner and an authoritarian politician like Orbán?”

The answer can be found in the official statement reported by the official website of the Hungarian government, “Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has had talks with the head of Myanmar’s Government Aung San Suu Kyi. The subjects covered in the talks were illegal immigration and bilateral economic, educational and cultural relations … At the meeting the two leaders highlighted that one of the greatest challenges at present for both countries and their respective regions – South East Asia and Europe – is migration. They noted that both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of coexistence with continuously growing Muslim populations.”

Any comment would be superfluous. The true object of concern for both the authoritarian politician and the Nobel prize winner seems to be the “danger” posed by Islam: a danger which, in Myanmar, supposedly comes from less than 5% of the population—minus a couple of million Rohingya—while in Hungary the number of Muslims doesn’t even appear in the statistics, due to being quasi-nonexistent.

But Orbán went even further: according to the same press release, he “pointed out that Hungary supports trade cooperation between the EU and Myanmar. At the same time, however, he stressed that Hungary rejects attempts at the ‘export of democracy’ and the approach of bureaucrats in Brussels and elsewhere in the West, who seek to conflate unrelated issues such as economic cooperation and internal political questions.”

As local newspapers reported, the Nobel Prize winner really appreciated Orbán’s position, one that is no longer being taken even by the countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), famous for embracing the theory of mutual non-interference in internal affairs (for instance, Malaysia has recently accused Myanmar of genocidal policies).

Meanwhile, in Rakhine State (the region of the Rohingya and other minorities), the situation is getting more and more tense due to the excessive level of power exerted by the military, which has led 45 local village administrators to resign en masse as they feared for their personal safety following the indiscriminate arrests of some of their colleagues in areas where the Arakan Army rebel group is operating.

One can only ponder how much times have changed since another historic Burmese dissident, the journalist Ludu Daw Amar, went on her own European tour in 1953. Her schedule included the following events: the World Democratic Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, the International Youth Festival in Bucharest, and the World Peace Conference held in none other than Budapest.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!