The Irrawaddy

Push to Refer Tatmadaw to ICC Could Harm Stability: USDP

The USDP holds a press conference on April 24 at its headquarters in Yangon.

NAYPYITAW – Attempts to refer Myanmar’s military leaders to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague pose a serious threat to the country’s stability and transition to democracy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said on Thursday.

“Attempts to refer the military to the ICC will only create a situation that could affect [national] stability. Removing the military entirely from the country’s politics would make things worse for the country,” USDP spokesman Dr. Nanda Hla Myint told The Irrawaddy.

In the wake of armed clashes in Kachin State’s Tanai Township that have trapped many villagers inside the conflict zone and forced thousands to flee, some Kachin groups have urged the UN to refer the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) to the ICC.

According to U Thein Tun Oo, the director of the Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, the proposal is an effort to clamp down on the military, which he said is country’s only strong institution. If the effort succeeded, the country’s defense and security could be seriously affected, he said.

“Frankly, this is inference. Their ambition is to weaken the only remaining organization which has real strength. If the situation continues like this, the political situation will be harmed, especially while military officials and government authorities are trying to build unity,” U Thein Tun Oo said.

Government officials have said in the past that attempts to take action against the military were not useful in advancing the country’s transition to democracy.

“Given the country’s history and political situation, we cannot deny the military its role. Any democratically elected government that wants to build a sustainable democracy in a country must join hands with its military,” said Dr. Nanda Hla Myint, the USDP spokesman.

National League for Democracy central committee member Monywa Aung Shin said he did not support the several attempts that have been made to refer the military to the ICC by activists both in and outside of the country. He said such efforts accused the military of responsibility for abuses without evidence, and warned activists not to raise the issue of the ICC lightly.

“We have to investigate first to find the root causes [of abuses]. [State Counselor] Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has already said that. We have to investigate. When there is armed conflict, there are many effects but we should not blame one side. If there is concrete evidence everyone will accept it,” Monywa Aung Shin said.

Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the military, said on April 18 that the military handled the incident in Inn Din village, in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

Seven military officials and soldiers involved in the killing of civilians in Inn Din village were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor, according to a military statement issued on April 11.