Burma

Rallies Draw Thousands Nationwide in Support of State Counselor’s Defense of Myanmar at ICJ

By The Irrawaddy 9 December 2019

Public displays of support are gaining momentum across the country for State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is in the Netherlands to defend the country at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against genocide charges brought by The Gambia over the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine State.

The Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the World Court last month, accusing Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

Representatives from both countries will appear before the court from Dec. 10 to 12 for a series of public hearings.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh in late 2017 after the government’s security forces launched clearance operations in northern Rakhine State in response to a series of attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on police outposts in the area. UN investigators said the operations had “genocidal intent”. Both the Myanmar government and military have denied the accusations.

On Monday, thousands of people gathered in Bago holding posters reading “We Stand with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Thousands gather in Naypyitaw on Dec. 7 to show support for State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her defense of Myanmar against a genocide lawsuit at the International Court of Justice. / Moe Moe / The Irrawaddy

 

The phrase was one of many—including “We Stand with Our Leader!” and “We Stand with You!”—seen on posters placed along the sides of roads in townships across the country, including in Yangon. Supporters also set up social media accounts to mobilize demonstrations in solidarity with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in many locations.

One such rally in Naypyitaw, the nation’s capital, drew more than 10,000 people on Saturday. Protesters held posters printed with “We Stand with Our Leader” and portraits of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

U Kyaw Min Tun, a leading organizer of the public demonstrations, told The Irrawaddy that the aim of the events is to show that the Myanmar people support the State Counselor in leading the legal team to The Hague. “It is not just one person or certain groups offering support; all of us support the legal team led by the State Counselor, our Mother Su [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi], in her defense of justice,” he said.

Locals in Sagaing also marched on Saturday to show their support.

People gather in Pyay, Bago Region on Dec. 8 to show support for State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her defense of Myanmar against a genocide lawsuit at the International Court of Justice. / Kaung Myat Min / The Irrawaddy

On Saturday, Thura U Shwe Mann, founder of the Union Betterment Party, said at press conference at his residence in Naypyitaw that he supports Daw Aung San Suu Kyi because her actions “show accountability”. He said the country needed to unite in a case such as this, when it is being sued by a small African country.

On Sunday, Dr. Sein Win, the cousin of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and a former exile leader under the military regime, joined a demonstration in Pyay, Bago Region, together with the region’s chief minister and local residents.

Dr. Sein Win, (front row, second from right), a cousin of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, joins a public demonstration in Pyay, Bago Region, on Dec. 8 supporting her efforts to lead a legal team at the International Court of Justice. / Kaung Myat Min / The Irrawaddy

On the same day, members of the public gathered to show their support for the State Counselor and the National League for Democracy in Moulmein in Mon State. Supporters also took to the streets in Meiktila Township in Mandalay Region; Moe Nyo Township in Magwe Region and Nyaung Tone Township in Ayeyarwady Region.

Public rallies in support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were planned for Tuesday in Yangon, the nation’s commercial hub, and Mandalay, and for Wednesday in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region.

Outside Myanmar, supporters were also planning to gather in The Hague on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12, according to the We Stand With Aung San Suu Kyi Facebook page. The Myanmar legal team is due to participate in hearings at the court on those days.

Moe Moe in Naypyitaw, Kaung Myat Min in Pyay and Aung Kyaw Htet in Bago contributed to this report.

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