The Gambia’s November 11 state-sponsored genocide lawsuit allegation in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has caused havoc and cacophony in Myanmar political landscape.

It is all the more confusing for the general public and those not adequately informed, from political parties, civil society organizations, to ethnic armed organizations, with many airing their opinion and doling out statements either for or against the Gambia lawsuit against Myanmar in The Hague at the ICJ.

201909asia myanmar rohingya | Rohingya refugees gather in an open field at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing campaign in Rakhine State on August 25, 2019. © 2019 K M Asad/LightRocket via Getty Images

Publicly there has been a few rallies that backed up the State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, who will lead the Myanmar legal team to The Hague, chanting and picketing “We stand with you, Mother Suu”.

And a host of discussion and arguing have been going on in social media and all media outlets from radio to television.

While aside ICJ, there are also lawsuits filed in the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Argentina’s universal jurisdiction court, Myanmar said it will only respond to the ICJ, as it is the signatory of the convention since 1948.

The hearing and possibly a judgment would be undertaken by 15 judges in ICJ but not likely on the immediate verdict of whether Myanmar is guilty of state-sponsored genocide or not at the moment. According to the experts, this could take years to come to conclusion, citing the sole genocide case of  Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro, which took fourteen years.

But the Gambia lawsuit is to first advocate for provisional measures, as it considers genocide is ongoing in Myanmar.

According to the Gambia lawsuit, it listed: continued denial of Rohingya identity by the Myanmar authorities; the continued detention of 128,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslim after 2012 in detention centers and giving heavy prison sentences to those who fled the facilities; and as Myanmar government has been constantly hiding the genocide reality, the future of some 600,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslim are in danger and dire need for protection.

Thus, the provisional measures tabled by Gambia are: to immediately halt genocide implementation by the government and its security apparatus; not to erase genocide evidences; during the case proceeding, both Myanmar and Gambia to refrain from activities that would affect the truth in court decision-making; and urging the ICJ to impose directive regarding the said mentioned issues to adhere and refrain accordingly.

And more importantly, the Myanmar public should understand that it is not that the every citizen is being slapped with genocide allegation but it is only on the country’s decision-making power holders, which are the government and its security apparatus that have caused the genocide to happen. 

But some Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement-Signatory-Ethnic Armed Organizations (NCA-S-EAO)  leaders interpreted it otherwise.

For example, Khaing Soe Naing Aung, who headed Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) recently said on the sideline of 10 NCA-S-EAO meeting in Chiang Mai: “Because it hurts and damages all the ethnic nationalities including Shan, Karen, Rakhine (Arakan), Bamar, we ALP cannot accept it .”

He earlier said: “On discussion the 10 NCA-S-EAO as far as I could observed, as the suing in ICJ is aimed at the country, all citizens are (negatively) affected. It is not suing individuals and thus it (state-sponsored genocide allegation) might not be accepted.”

Likewise, Khun Okker of Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) admitted that there are difference within the EAOs but said: “The majority’s opinion is that because it concerns the country all of us who reside within are duty-bound to prop up the government in unity with the people so that it won’t reach the stage of genocide (guilty verdict),” according to the December 2 RFA report.

On November 30, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) or Mongla also endorsed the responsibility taken by the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The former went further in its statement saying that it would be better to resolve the Rohingya problem by making use of the mediating third country between the Bangladesh and Myanmar, rather than international intervention. It clearly has “China” in mind as the mediator, as it has tried to mediate the two countries already several times. The latter emphasized that the international community should listen to what Myanmar has to say.

However, on November 28, three ethnic armed groups that have recently engaged in armed clashes with government troops and called itself as the Three Brotherhood Alliance issued a three-paragraph statement, fully supporting the Gambia’s genocide allegation against the Rohingya in the ICJ. It also wrote that it welcome The Hague-based ICC’s “authorization of the prosecutor to proceed with an investigation for the alleged crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction.”

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army, and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army urged the two judicial bodies to find out the truth behind the charges and offered to provide evidence of genocidal acts perpetrated by government forces.

In addition, the three groups said that during the past 70 years of armed fighting, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) has committed genocide, extrajudicial arrests, torture, massacres, abductions and the use of gang rape as instruments of war in Kachin, Shan, Karenni (Kayah), Karen, Mon and Arakan States, in the name of fighting the insurgents.

On December 4, the 10 NCA-S-EAO issued a five-point statement, in which the paragraph number 4 deals with the ICJ lawsuit. 

It wrote: “The government confronting accountability and responsibility is an indication showing to open up the truth and justification. The government by adhering and implementing the international treaties will foster national reconciliation and durable internal peace, including uplifting of the country’s image among international community.”

To the chagrin of the PNLO and ALP leaders within the NCA-S-EAO, the statement is more of a watered down version, urging the government to abide by international treaties and implement them accordingly. The two were openly pushing for total endorsement of the government’s rebuttal position on state-sponsored genocide allegation.

As the situation now stands, the cacophony regarding the ICJ will continue and the whole country, including the EAOs and political parties, will continue to chip in their opinions with an eye on how to make political profit out of it, one way or the other.

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