Myanmar Military Welcomes Chance to Contest Rohingya Charges

By The Irrawaddy 22 November 2019

NAYPYITAW – The Myanmar military is fully cooperating with the government to contest a case filed by The Gambia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that accuses Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingya, according to a military spokesman.

The country recently announced that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as the country’s foreign minister, will lead a team to the global court in The Hague to defend the national interests of Myanmar.

The Gambia submitted an application to the court, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), against Myanmar on Nov. 11. The first public hearings will be held from Dec. 10 to 12.

More than 700,000 Rohingya from northern Rakhine State in western Myanmar have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since 2017 following clearance operations by the Myanmar military after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police outposts. United Nations investigators say the Myanmar military operations had “genocidal intent”.

Spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the military was fully cooperating with the government on the issue while the armed forces themselves were discussing martial law.

When asked if the military would be represented in The Hague, the spokesman said: “It depends on the government’s instruction.”

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said the military took the case as a blessing in disguise because Myanmar would have a chance to give official explanations about the issue.

He said the Rohingya crisis from 2012 to 2017 was neither sparked by the “natives” of Rakhine State nor the police or military but by “non-indigenous people” who lived there, referring to the Rohingya. A majority in Myanmar believe they are illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

“However, this fact was internationally neglected, and only the exodus to Bangladesh has been highlighted. Now we have a chance to explain it at the ICJ,” he said.

The Global Justice Center said the State Counselor and the civilian government had failed to prevent genocide in Rakhine State and took no steps to hold the military to account.

“The international community should no longer have illusions where [Daw Aung San] Suu Kyi and the civilian government stand and must act to support The Gambia and take other measures to hold Myanmar accountable,” the group said in a statement.