Myanmar Parliament Approves Half-Million USD for ICJ Genocide Defense After Debate

By Thiha Lwin 28 May 2020

NAYPYITAW—The Myanmar Parliament has approved a budget of 680 million kyats (US$484,000) for the country’s defense at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against genocide charges filed by The Gambia.

Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin defended the government’s budget before a vote on Wednesday, responding to criticism from a military-appointed lawmaker by saying that the budget was made in line with laws and procedures.

As lawmakers discussed proposed additions to budgets for the 2019-20 fiscal year last week, military lawmaker Major Naing Lin Aung asked if the proposed budget of 680 million kyats was in line with laws and procedures.

“We will have to face the lawsuit for years. So, I’d like to say that the proposed addition to the budget is in line with financial procedures and laws,” said U Kyaw Tin.

The budget for the defense at the ICJ falls under the budget of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). The joint public accounts committee suggested slashing 626.7 million kyats (US$446,000) from the 4.4 billion kyat-budget proposed by MOFA.

The Union Parliament accepted the cut and approved the adjusted MOFA budget on Wednesday.

The budget covers hiring of legal experts and advisors, travel to the ICJ and meetings inside and outside the country, said U Kyaw Tin.

He said that in November of last year, MOFA explained its plan to defend against the lawsuit at the ICJ to President U Win Myint, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, vice-presidents, parliamentary speakers, military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and region and state chief ministers.

“The ministry was able to satisfactorily explain how its expenditures are in line with regulations. As our country is being sued and we face a lawsuit at the international level, there must be sufficient budget. This must be accepted,” said lawmaker Daw Pyone Cathy Naing, who is also a member of the Lower House International Relations Committee.

In Parliament on May 22, Maj. Naing Lin Aung stressed that budget proposals must follow regulations from the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry as well as relevant laws and rules.

“The military lawmaker is right to ask if the ministry did [its budget] in line with procedures, and the minister explained that it was done in line with procedures. So, it is settled,” said lawmaker Dr. Maung Thin of the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

The Gambia has filed a case at the ICJ accusing Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingya.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army—which the government has labeled a terrorist organization—launched a series of attacks on security outposts in northern Rakhine on Aug. 25, 2017, killing 12 security personnel. The attacks prompted the Myanmar military to carry out clearance operations that drove more than 700,000 Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh.

In January, the court ordered Myanmar to comply with four provisional measures as requested by The Gambia.

The measures require that Myanmar take steps to prevent acts of genocide in the future; ensure that the military and its affiliates do not commit further acts of genocide; preserve all evidence of genocide; and provide regular updates on its progress on these measures.

Myanmar submitted its first report on the provisional measures on May 22, with subsequent reports to be filed every six months thereafter until the case is completed.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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