It’s a comparison that not so long ago would have been considered inconceivable. Two global leaders who on the face of it, in terms of character and political outlook, could not be more different.

But it’s a measure of just how much our perception has changed of Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the most celebrated human rights icons of our age, that she was recently compared to Donald Trump.

“This is Trumpism 101: Deny. Discredit. Smear,” wrote the respected journalist and broadcaster Mehdi Hasan of Suu Kyi recently in the online magazine The Intercept.

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According to Hasan, Suu Kyi has opted to “borrow from the Donald Trump playbook of denial and deflection,” when it comes to her response to the on-going atrocities being committed against the Muslim Rohingya population of Myanmar, or what used to be called Burma.

This weekend the numbers of Rohingya, who have now fled the onslaught by the Myanmar Army and are seeking refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, is reported to have risen to over a quarter of a million. Bangladesh has summoned the Myanmar ambassador in Dhaka to protest against the planting of landmines along the border between the two countries.

Those who make the perilous journey from Myanmar’s Rakhine State bring with them accounts of atrocities and abuses that have shocked even the most experienced and hardened of human rights workers.

Stories of being shelled, shot, stabbed, starved, robbed, raped and driven from their homes.

In a report published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), more than half of the Rohingya women interviewed by UN investigators once across the border in Bangladesh, said they had suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence at the hands of the Myanmar security forces.

“They dragged my mother outside the house and locked themselves in the room with me. I do not know if they all abused me, I lost consciousness at some point. My mother woke me up with water. I was bleeding a lot,” was how one 11-year-old girl recounted her ordeal to UN investigators.

Another 27-year old old fisherman from Kyein Chaung told of how soldiers entered his house where they found his mother, wife and sister at home.

“They took my 18-year-old sister to nearby bushes and gang-raped her. She was brought back after the rape. She was in a critical situation and died the same day. I was in the canal fishing and upon my return, I found her dead.”

While over the past few weeks the crisis along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border has intensified, the persecution of the Rohingya is far from new.

Myanmar’s population is a fractious, multi-religious patchwork of dozens of ethnic groups, but no community has been more neglected than Rohingya Muslims, a small minority in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

From the point of view of the military and the Buddhists who dominate Myanmar, the Rohingya have never fitted into the grand historical narrative that the country has tried to propagate since its independence in 1948.

In 1982 the military junta in the country stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship rights and they have lived in apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine State ever since.

Subsequently, observers see the growing Rohingya insurgency in Rakhine more as the symptom of decades of government abuse and persecution than the flourishing of Islamist extremism on Myanmar soil.

The Myanmar authorities don’t see it that way, insisting instead they are carrying out “clearance operations” against extremist “Bengali” insurgents, “Bengali” being a term the government uses to suggest Rohingyas are foreign interlopers rather than natives of Myanmar.

In this context the insurgency has effectively provided what many see as a pretext for the Myanmar authorities to launch their most recent military scorched earth campaign, one some human rights groups say is tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

Currently there are about 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and as recently as 2015, the US Holocaust Museum ranked the country as the one most at risk of a campaign of genocide.

For many on the ground the horrific events now unfolding along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border are certainly beginning to look and feel like genocide.

Over the past two weeks an estimated 270,000 Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh, a dramatic jump in numbers. The latest satellite images gathered by human rights groups showed about 450 buildings had been burned down in a Myanmar border town largely inhabited by Rohingya.

“The numbers are so alarming, it really means that we have to step up our response and that the situation in Myanmar has to be addressed urgently,” warns Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

That sense of urgency to intervene though is apparently absent when it comes to the one political leader many firmly believe has the power to curtail if not stop the atrocities now being perpetrated by the Myanmar Army.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel peace Laureate, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, winner of the Sakharov Prize, an Amnesty International-recognised prisoner of conscience, now stands accused of turning her back on the plight of the Rohingya. Quite a fall from grace for a woman seen in the west as a secular saint. As a result of her struggle to have democracy replace the military junta, she remained under house arrest for almost 15 of the 21 years from 1989 to 2010, becoming one of the world's most prominent political prisoners and a darling of the liberal west.

Now, however, some critics go as far as to suggest her role in the suffering of the Rohingya is even more sinister, highlighting how Suu Kyi took a deliberate decision to try and discredit the Rohingya victims of rape, and went out of her way to accuse human rights groups and foreign journalists of exaggerations and fabrications. This has led to the unlikely but increasingly fitting comparisons with Donald Trump.

Fitting because not only did Suu Kyi’s office indulge in their own Trump style accusations by saying Rohingya women fabricated stories of sexual violence but put the words “fake rape” in the form of a banner headline on its official website.

Consistently too spokespeople for Suu Kyi have dismissed “made up stories blown out of all proportion” and even the State Counsellor - her official title since 2015 - is said to have told the Archbishop of Yangon, Charles Bo, that the international community is exaggerating the Rohingya issue.

One recent post on Suu Kyi’s Facebook page blamed “terrorists” for a “huge iceberg of misinformation” about the current violence. A Trumpism, if ever there was one.

Given all of this, perhaps not surprisingly, the stream of criticism towards Suu Kyi has steadily grown as the Rohingya crisis intensifies. More and more it also comes not only from the highest quarters, but often with few punches pulled.

Last week it was the turn of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to join fellow Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai in condemning Suu Kyi over her position on the Rohingya.

“My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” said the South African veteran of the fight against apartheid in an open letter to Suu Kyi.

“A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country,” Tutu added.

Though Suu Kyi herself was barred by the constitution from becoming president, she selected Htin Kyaw, a relatively undistinguished loyalist, to take that position and declared herself “above” the presidency.

However, as State Counsellor she is now Myanmar’s undisputed civilian leader. In that capacity she plays a role in overseeing - though not controlling - the country’s military and in the past has had more success than anyone at facing down Myanmar’s generals.

So what now lies behind her reluctance to condemn or act to prevent the on-going persecution and atrocities being committed by the army against the Rohingya?

According to journalist and broadcaster Mehdi Hasan, Suu Kyi’s silence is the least of her sins. He believes that rather than her silence suggesting a “studied neutrality” the country’s long-awaited champion of democracy, is far from neutral and picked her side, that of “Buddhist nationalism and crude Islamophobia.”

Indeed “The Lady,” as she is known in Myanmar, has fallen under greater scrutiny than ever because of the Rohingya crisis, bringing negative accounts of Suu Kyi’s attitude toward Muslims slowly to the surface.

In a 2013 interview with the BBC, Suu Kyi refused numerous opportunities to condemn a group of hardline Buddhist monks who were spreading hatred against the country’s Muslims. In a tense encounter with BBC presenter Mishal Husain it’s claimed that the leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy was heard muttering “no one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.”

Suu Kyi it turns out also appears not to have objected when, before the 2015 election, polling authorities decided that Rohingya Muslims would be summarily denied the right to vote. Her party is even said to have purged its party list of Muslim candidates in what was widely interpreted as an attempt to defuse criticism from the country’s Buddhist hardliners.

For her part Suu Kyi for some time now has increasingly shown signs of her impatience with criticism from the global community.

In a rare interview given last December to Channel News Asia while on a visit to Singapore, she effectively told the international community to keep out of Myanmar’s affairs.

“I would appreciate it so much if the international community would help us to maintain peace and stability and to make progress in building better relations between the two communities, instead of always drumming up cause for bigger fires of resentment,” she said speaking of relations between Buddhists and Muslims.

Not everyone of course sees Suu Kyi’s recent response to the Rohingya issue in a purely negative light. Some point to the many political pressures she faces inside Myanmar itself that shape her decisions.

And of course there is Myanmar’s powerful Army and its generals, with whom she must always tread warily. Despite Suu Kyi’s landslide electoral victory, the military still controls key government functions and apparatus on paper as well as in reality, notably security.

Few might know the name of the country’s military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, but he remains the man who calls most of the shots. In a country where there is complex power sharing, some fear that to speak out against the generals could provoke a coup.

These are challenges of course that Suu Kyi faced for years while an opposition activist. For that reason given the severity of the Rohingya crisis and the suffering involved, many maintain that as a leader who rose to power armed with only her words and moral authority, that she should use them again in defence of human rights.

Suu Kyi’s influence over much of Myanmar’s population remains strong. Without directly criticising the generals, few doubt her words would do a great deal to counteract support for their more brutal actions.

According to Fiona MacGregor, formerly a Myanmar based journalist who specialises in gender and human rights, two dominant theories vie to explain Suu Kyi’s silence on allegations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

The first is that she remains fearful of speaking out against the military, the second is that in her ambition to maintain personal power and secure the future of the Bamar ethnic majority - to which Suu Kyi belongs - she is willing to sacrifice the ethnic minorities to the military’s ambitions.

As MacGregor wrote recently if it is fear of losing her position that has directed Suu Kyi’s silence over rights abuses, she has betrayed her most famous principle.

“It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it,” Suu Kyi once pointed out.

Right now tens of thousands of exhausted and traumatised Rohingya who have stumbled out of Myanmar into Bangladesh through the mined and monsoon-lashed rice paddies that line the frontier, know all about fear and the abuse of power.

Shamefully, Aung San Suu Kyi, often mentioned as a paragon of liberty, in the same breath as Mandela and Gandhi, bears a substantial share of the responsibility for their suffering.