Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Military Against Genocide Charges
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state counsellor, arrives for the banquet after the enthronement ceremony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Pierre Emmanuel Deletree/SIPA/Bloomberg)  

 Aung San Suu Kyi Defends Myanmar Military Against Genocide Charges

(Bloomberg) -- Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the International Court of Justice on Wednesday to deny allegations the military had committed genocide against minority Rohingya Muslims.

The small Muslim-majority nation of Gambia that brought the case against Myanmar had laid out a detailed and graphic case a day earlier, saying thousands of Rohingya Muslims were systematically raped and murdered at the hands of Myanmar’s military. It is calling for temporary measures to protect the Rohingya community.

But Suu Kyi dismissed Gambia’s case as a half-truth, saying “the situation in Rakhine state is complicated and not easily fathomed.” She attributed the exodus of more than 740,000 civilians to neighboring Bangladesh to an ongoing internal armed conflict with insurgents.

“Gambia has placed an incomplete and misleading picture of the factual situation in Rakhine state in Myanmar,” she told the court. Still, she said the use of disproportionate force by members of the defense services “cannot be ruled out.”

‘Genocidal Intent’

Following multiple investigations, the United Nations directly accused Myanmar’s military, known as Tatmadaw, of perpetrating atrocities against the ethnic minority with “genocidal intent” while accusing Suu Kyi of complicity. The violence against the Rohingya began in earnest in 2017, although the community has faced marginalization in Myanmar for years.

Suu Kyi insisted any officers, civilians or soldiers found guilty of war crimes through Myanmar’s independent inquiry would be held accountable and the country has made every effort to investigate the conflict.

“There is currently no other fact finding body in the world that has garnered relevant first hand information on what occurred in Rakhine in 2017 to the same extent as the independent commission of inquiry,” she said. “They must be allowed to run their course.”

Following the speech, Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan said in a statement Suu Kyi’s depiction of an internal military conflict “with no genocidal intent against the Rohingya is completely false.”

“Multiple independent agencies and experts, as well as Rohingya themselves, have documented mass killings, widespread rape, and wholesale destruction of land and property intentionally inflicted on innocent civilians,” Radhakrishnan said. “This is genocide and it’s precisely what the Genocide Convention set out to prevent.”

With close to one million Rohingya living in squalid refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar area, Suu Kyi told the court Myanmar was taking every step to ensure their safe and dignified repatriation, disputing claims by numerous rights groups.

“How can there be genocide when such concrete steps are being taken,” she asked.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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