Aung San Suu Kyi: From Nobel laureate to a supporter of ethnic cleansing


Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate, is appearing at the Hague in defense of Myanmar (formally Burma) which was accused by Gambia of violating its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Suu Kyi has argued that the allegations are "incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation" and that the crimes committed by her government's military were a legitimate counter-terrorism response against Rohingya militants.

But Suu Kyi who was under house arrest by the same military regime she now defends did not step in to prevent gang rapes of women and girls by up to ten Myanmar soldiers at a time. She did not prevent executions of civilians, snatching toddlers from their mothers and throwing them into the river, throwing babies into the fire, and chopping babies to pieces. The Myanmar military has used heavy machinery from machine guns to mortars, and helicopters to torch villages and people in them. How then is her military's action a "legitimate counter-terrorism response"? It is not. Myanmar's army sought to exterminate an ethnic group by any means possible. The crimes committed by the Myanmar's military was an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in Northern Rakhine State. That is genocide.

It is estimated that since 2017, 700.000 Rohingyas fled the country into neighboring Bangladesh. Even the UN ruled Myanmar's actions as brutal and failing to prevent genocide. For years Rohingyas have faced discrimination in Myanmar, they have been prevented from gaining citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law, making them one of the largest stateless populations in the world. Further to that, their movement in Myanmar is restricted, and they are not given basic health care. That has led to dire conditions of those that have already been displaced between 2012 and 2016.

Only in Bangladesh, have Rohingya's received medical help, and that was the first time in their lives. While many countries have provided aid to Bangladesh to help out with the refugee crises, the response to hold Myanmar accountable for genocide and the crimes against humanity have been very slow, until Gambia made the first move alleging that

"extrajudicial killings… sexual violence, burning of homes and destruction of livestock… calculated to bring about a destruction of the Rohingya group in whole or in part".

Any member state of the International Court of Justice can initiate action against a fellow member state if it is deemed to be breaching international law. But Suu Kyi thinks that domestic courts, in this case, Myanmar government, should try those accused of crimes against humanity, and has claimed some cases have already been processed. However, since both she and her government negate that crimes against humanity have taken place in Myanmar, then her country's courts are not reliable nor objective enough to take on such cases. Member of the military and those in the government, including Suu Kyi, should be tried on the international stage for failure to prevent crimes against humanity and for allowing those crimes to take place.

Myanmar represented by Prof William Schabas of Middlesex University. He is arguing that the Gambia did not state the intent of the genocide. However, if we look further in history how the Myanmar government has treated Rohingya's, and how they have been targeted by the military and crimes that were committed against them, then that speaks for itself, that is an intent to remove a particular ethnic group from existence on that territory. The same way Serbs picked out a specific group of people in Srebrenica, Muslim men and boys, and exterminated them and the same way Nazis gassed Jewish population of Europe. That is genocide.

During her premiership, Theresa May went so far as to say that the crisis "looks like ethnic cleansing", but the careful wording freed her government from the immediate responsibility to act. Suu Kyi, whose late husband is an Englishman enjoys protection from the British establishment, so it is no wonder that most of the lawyers representing Myanmar, are English apart from Prof Schabas.

The fact that she is advised to claim that in counter-terrorism actions some civilians may have been hit is a typical claim made by governments in war zones that civilians are often victims when fighting against certain factions of governments. However, Rohingya is not represented by the government. They are villagers with no rights and no fundamental human rights either. Even if there have been attacks perpetrated by Rohingya, they could not have been at the scale that Myanmar’s government retaliated.

Suu Kyi, who received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has become a completely different person since that time. From fighting for human rights to denying them to an ethnic minority and supporting ethnic cleansing. There have been international calls for her to be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize, but it all fell to death ear. She has been stripped of her Elie Wiesel Award by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. But stripping her of these awards will not make any difference to Rohingya people, but what will is seeing Suu Kyi, her generals and their soldiers facing charges of ethnic cleansing and genocide at the Hague. Just like there was International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, there should also be International Criminal Tribunal for Myanmar.

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