It is time for Aung San Suu Kyi to end her studied silence. Time also for her to appeal to the military to end the relentless repression of Rohingyas. That horrendous repression was graphically documented on Tuesday by the voice of the comity of nations, the UN Human Rights Council. The horrific accounts of murders, rapes, torture and indiscriminate shelling against the Rohingyas and other minorities have served to reaffirm the charge of genocide against the omnipotent junta.
Seldom has the international standing of Myanmar plummeted to the level as it now has ~ “The military, known in the country as Tatmadaw, has committed the gravest crimes under international law,” is the core of the UNHRC presentation. Which makes it direly imperative for the democratic bloc to act in the follow-through, not least India which ought now to abjure its policy of pussyfooting. It is above all imperative for the United Nations to act in accord with its Charter, and not prevaricate as it did in Libya and Syria.
The 440-page report is as incredible as it is hideous; it includes accounts of women tied by their hair or hands to trees and then raped; young children trying to flee burning houses but forced back inside; widespread use of torture with bamboo sticks, cigarettes and hot wax; and landmines placed at the escape routes from villages, killing people as they fled army crackdowns. Seldom in history has the concept of refugee rehabilitation been so brutal and almost as a matter of state policy.
The panel has advanced a pregnant prescription for the army, which has over time developed what it calls a “toxic command climate” in which widespread human rights abuses had become the norm. It has called for a dramatic paradigm shift, one that may yet embarrass the likes of Suu Kyi. Notably, the UNHRC has suggested that the army be brought under civilian oversight; oddly enough, it is now quite the contrary. It is the military that rules behind the facade of an elected, civilian dispensation.
The other critical suggestion is that the army must be stripped of its quota (25 per cent) of parliamentary seats and, if necessary, be “totally dissolved and rebuilt”. The UNHRC has thus recommended a thorough overhaul of the shambolic structure of governance that somehow survives with impunity even after Suu Kyi’s release from house-arrest followed by the democratic elections of December 2015.
It has called for senior military leaders, including the commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, to be prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. “Any engagement in any form with the Tatmadaw, its current leadership, and its businesses is indefensible,” is the UNHRC’s warning that must resonate beyond the boundaries of Myanmar, most particularly in the echo chambers of the democratic West. The council has crafted a gut-churning document, which makes repatriation almost inconceivable.