Approximately 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled a massive wave of ethnic violence in Rakhine, Myanmar, over the last three weeks.
More than 200 Rohingya villages have been burned to the ground and land mines have been planted along the group's escape route to Bangladesh in recent weeks, according to The New York Times, as a decades-old conflict has turned into what the UN is calling "ethnic cleansing" by Myanmar's security forces against the Rohingya.
The country’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has so far refused to condemn the violence, saying instead on Monday, "we condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence."
But Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke about the crisis Monday. Trudeau released a letter he wrote to Suu Kyi imploring her to take action.
"It is with profound surprise, disappointment and dismay that your fellow Canadians have witnessed your continuing silence in the face of the brutal oppression of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim people," Trudeau's letter began.
The Rohingya have been fleeing ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar, which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, has called as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The military in Myanmar is accused of burning down Rohingya Muslims’ homes, forcing hundreds of thousands into neighbouring Bangladesh, according to UN reports.
“As the de facto democratic leader of Myanmar and as a renowned advocate for human rights, you have a particular moral and political obligation to speak out against this appalling cruelty, and to do whatever is in your power to stop it,” Trudeau wrote.
Leader Suu Kyi is an honorary Canadian citizen. Hundreds of Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill on Sunday to call on the Canadian government to act on this humanitarian crisis. Many are urging the prime minister to revoke Suu Kyi's honorary citizenship.
When she was in Ottawa, Trudeau says he expressed his concern for the situation and continued to put pressure on the Myanmar government to deescalate the crisis. His letter comes after making a phone call last week.
"By publicly condemning the violence and taking immediate steps to protect and defend the rights of all minorities, you can help guide the people of Myanmar to surmount these deep ethnic divisions," he wrote.
Trudeau’s letter also asked the Myanmar government to publicly welcome the return of all Rohingya refugees.
The prime minister quoted Suu Kyi’s 2012 Nobel lecture: “Of the sweets of adversity, and let me say that these are not numerous, I have found the sweetest, most precious of all, is the lesson I learnt on the value of kindness. Every kindness I received, small or big, convinced me that there could never be enough of it in our world.”
Now is the time for these words to ring true.
“In order for them, and your various honours, to retain any meaning,” Trudeau wrote, “You must defend the Rohinga Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar.”
Global Citizen campaigns on issues as they relate to citizenship. You can take action here.