Bob Geldof to hand back Freedom of Dublin in protest over Aung San Suu Kyi


Bob Geldof is to hand back his Freedom of the City of Dublin in protest at Aung San Suu Kyi holding the same accolade while Burma carries out "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya.

The Live Aid founder and musician blasted the Burmese Nobel peace laureate, saying she was a "handmaiden to genocide" whose association with the capital "shames us all".

Ms Suu Kyi, Burma's civilian leader, has faced widespread criticism and anger over the country's violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority, described by the UN as "textbook ethnic cleansing".

In a statement Mr Geldof said he would hand the award back at City Hall on Monday morning, because while he was a "proud Dubliner" he did not want the ceremonial title while Ms Suu Kyi also held it.

He said: "Her association with our city shames us all and we should have no truck with it, even by default. We honoured her, now she appals and shames us.

"In short, I do not wish to be associated in any way with an individual currently engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people of north-west Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi (Athit Perawongmetha/AP)

"I am a founding patron of The Aegis Trust, who are concerned with genocide prevention and studies. Its founders built and maintain the National Holocaust Museum of the UK.

"I spoke at the inaugural National Holocaust Memorial Day at Westminster and in my time, I have walked amongst peoples who were sectionally targeted with ethnic cleansing.

"I would be a hypocrite now were I to share honours with one who has become at best an accomplice to murder, complicit in ethnic cleansing and a handmaiden to genocide."

More than 600,000 of the minority group have fled the northern Rakhine state into neighbouring Bangladesh to avoid violence from Burmese security forces since August, leading to a major humanitarian crisis.

The Buddhist majority in Burma, also known as Myanmar, regard the Rohingya as foreign immigrants rather than Burmese.

Rohingya Muslims arrive at a refugee camp in Bangladesh
Rohingya Muslims arrive at a refugee camp in Bangladesh (A.M. Ahad/AP)

Ms Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights", has acknowledged the criticism.

Last month she called for national unity, saying efforts were being made to stem the humanitarian crisis in the makeshift refugee camps strung along the border with Bangladesh.

It is not the first time Mr Geldof has spoken out against her. Last month at a summit in Colombia he described her as "one of the great ethnic cleansers of our planet".

In his Sunday statement Mr Geldof added: "The moment she is stripped of her Dublin Freedom perhaps the council would see fit to restore to me that which I take such pride in. If not, so be it."