GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 200, 15 December 2019

ICJ: Suu Kyi defends the indefensible
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

What happened?
This week, Aung San Suu Kyi visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to defend against the case filed by the Gambia. This OIC member has accused Myanmar of violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, about the atrocities and displacement of Rohingya. On 12 December 2019, Suu Kyi addressed the 17-member court to drop this accusation as it is "factually incorrect" and insisted that it is an internal conflict instigated by the attacks of the ARSA which is being taken care of by the internal judiciary system. Denying any genocide, she mentioned that there is an exodus of "Rakhine Muslims" due to internal conflict. She avoided mentioning 'Rohingya'.

What is the background?
The Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship by the 1982 Citizenship Law. Since 2017, violence and atrocities against them have increased.

Dhaka is keen to resolve the issue, as the Rohingya have taken refuge primarily in Bangladesh. ASEAN, as a regional organization has failed to address the crisis. 

Due to the religious connection, the OIC members have been more vocal about the issue. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, OIC and ASEAN members, are been upfront about their criticism of the Myanmarese army and the government. These two countries also receive several refugees, along with Bangladesh, Thailand, and India. 

Internationally, several organizations such as Amnesty International and UNHRC have been vehemently critical against Myanmar, especially Suu Kyi for the treatment towards Rohingyas. The US has banned entry for four high ranking military leaders of Myanmar.

What does it mean?
First, it was surprising to see Aung Suu Kyi defending the action against Rohingya in an international platform. Perhaps, she is looking at the forthcoming elections and garner support from the majority. The fact that several Myanmarese protested in front of ICJ supporting her would highlight that she is successful in the domestic factor. For her, it would not only increase her vote bank but also strengthen the relationship with the army.

Suu Kyi will be a hero back home, but there would be a more substantial global condemnation against her. One could see increased calls to withdraw the Nobel prize.

Second, domestically, the case in ICJ will worsen the situation for the Rohingya. It would increase the bitterness against them. Even if there were meagre support within, it would be none for them henceforth; they would be seen as getting a bad name to Myanmar. 

Third, this domestic situation will make repatriation impossible, thereby increasing the problem for Bangladesh.