UWSA, NDAA Support State Counselor’s Defense of Myanmar at ICJ

By Htun Htun 2 December 2019

YANGON—Two ethnic armed groups with strong militaries—the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA)—have both said they welcome the Myanmar government’s move to defend itself against charges of alleged genocide against the Rohingya in 2017 at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.

“We welcome [the government’s] courage, embracing responsibility and accountability by going to defend itself instead of issuing denials,” said UWSA liaison officer U Nyi Rang. “The truth cannot be hidden. The court will decide whether there are genocidal crimes or not. We do not support any circumstances which could cause more confusion.”

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is preparing to travel to the UN’s court in The Hague to lead Myanmar’s legal defense team against a lawsuit filed by The Gambia accusing Myanmar of genocide. The Gambia filed the suit on behalf of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Nov. 11 and the ICJ will hold the first public hearings in the case on Dec. 10-12.

The Office of the State Counselor formed the Special Unit on International Criminal Justice on Nov. 26. The unit includes two military officers, one of whom is reportedly an expert on international law.

“Our country will not accept such allegations,” U Kyi Myint, spokesman for the Mong La-based NDAA, told The Irrawaddy. “We, in Special Region 4 [Mong La], support the defense team led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” The NDAA released a statement on Friday in support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to the ICJ case.

Both the UWSA and NDAA are based in Shan State, in northeastern Myanmar. They both signed ceasefires in 1989 with Myanmar’s then-military government and have maintained diplomatic relations with subsequent governments and leaders, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UWSA issued a statement on Wednesday saying that they have respect for and are proud of Myanmar’s ICJ defense team, as the team will be protecting the dignity of the Union. The statement also said that any prejudiced response or inappropriate international intervention on sensitive issues—including religion, race, culture, politics, military and economics—can lead to instability and complications, given the deeply-rooted problems in Rakhine State. “Wa State objects to any unfair solutions to Myanmar’s conflicts,” read the statement.

The Gambia has filed a lawsuit against Myanmar over the Myanmar military’s clearance operations in Rakhine State in 2017. The military’s violent crackdown in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) caused more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee their homes for Bangladesh.

The UWSA is head of the seven-member Federal Political and Negotiation Consultative Committee (FNPCC), which includes ethnic armed groups based in Myanmar’s northeast. Some members of the FNPCC, including members of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups, are involved in ongoing conflicts with the military.

Though some ethnic armed groups have said they stand with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, others have said they support The Gambia’s lawsuit.

On Thursday, three FPNCC members who are also members of the Northern Alliance—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army, and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army—released a joint statement expressing support for efforts to prosecute Myanmar at the ICJ over the military’s alleged genocide and war crimes.

AA spokesman Khaing Thuka said that the groups support the international community’s efforts to achieve justice, as the military has committed similar crimes in ethnic areas for years.

U Nyi Rang said that though FPNCC member groups have different opinions on the ICJ case, relations between the coalition members have not been impacted.

“The Northern Alliance and [the UWSA] have different perspectives. This is based on our experiences. We have been at peace with the government for more than 30 years. They have been fighting in their areas every day. Right now, they are enemies [with the military] and their perspectives won’t be the same as ours. When their areas are at peace, their views might change,” said U Nyi Rang.

Signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) expressed support last month for Myanmar’s defense at the ICJ. On Monday, the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), which is not a signatory to the NCA, said it also stood with the government.

The story has been updated in the translated version

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