The metamorphosis of Aung San Suu Kyi is now official, and well might her detractors call it the submission of a turncoat. She will, after all, travel to The Hague to defend Myanmar against allegations of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Once hailed as the icon of democracy, she will lead the Myanmarese delegation to the ICJ next month to counter the perception of the UN investigators, chiefly that the hapless Rohingyas are victims of crimes against humanity.
Nay more, the beleaguered country bears witness to the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Her profound sympathies for the “nowhere men”, vigorously trumpeted before the democratic election in November 2015 and her assumption of the office of State Counsellor, have now been reduced to irrelevance, almost an exercise in shambolism. Though as State Counsellor ~ short of President ~ she has little operational control over the military, she has consistently refused to condemn their actions, and the renewed repression post the election.
Her decision to make her submission before the ICJ comes after Gambia, a predominantly Muslim country, lodged a 46-page application to the UN’s highest court this month, alleging Myanmar had carried out mass murder, rape and destruction of the Muslim minority community in Rakhine state. Public hearings in the case will be held from 10 to 12 December. Gambia, whose application has the support of several other Muslim countries, has alleged that the Myanmarese army had resumed “clearance operations”, so-called, after attacks by militants on police outposts.
The democratic world must give it to a small African country for having petitioned the ICJ against the Rohingya persecution. The withers of the Western democracies generally remain unwrung. Gambia’s petition is a horrendous read to say the least ~ “The Myanmarese soldiers have systematically shot, killed, forcibly disappeared, raped, gang-raped, sexually assaulted, detained, beat and tortured Rohingya civilians and burned down and destroyed Rohingya homes, mosques, madrasas, shops and Qurans”, the submission from the west African country has alleged.
Suu Kyi has consistently refused to condemn the actions of the junta, iterating a feeble excuse for an ugly truth. Her turnaround has been breathtaking. She claims that there is not enough evidence to definitively say what has been happening in Rakhine. She has blamed “terrorists” for what she calls an “iceberg of misinformation” about the situation. Indeed, her inaction has led to calls for her to be stripped of the Nobel peace prize she was awarded in 1991.
A number of other prizes and honours given to her have already been withdrawn, preeminently the award by the University of Oxford. Her appearance at the ICJ in December is likely to be a robust and high-profile defence of her country’s actions and could further tarnish her reputation. This will be the first time that the ICJ will hear genocide claims on its own without relying on the findings of tribunals such as the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which it had consulted for charges against Serbia and Croatia.