Suu Kyi Criticised For ‘Silence’ Over Myanmar Genocide Claims

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she attends the 10th ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.  Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

The Gambia condemned Aung San Suu Kyi’s “silence” over the plight of Rohingya Muslims on Thursday after the Nobel Peace Prize laureate defended Myanmar against genocide charges at the UN’s top court.

Lawyers for the mostly Muslim African country said her arguments that Myanmar’s 2017 military crackdown was a “clearance operation” targeting militants ignored widespread allegations of mass murder, rape and forced deportation.

“Madame agent, your silence said far more than your words,” The Gambia’s lawyer Philippe Sands told the International Court of Justice (ICJ), referring to Suu Kyi, who is officially acting as Myanmar’s agent in the case.

“The word ‘rape’ did not once pass the lips of the agent,” Sands added, as Suu Kyi sat impassively in the courtroom, wearing traditional Burmese dress and flowers in her hair.

The Gambia has taken majority-Buddhist Myanmar to the court in The Hague, accusing it of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide convention and seeking emergency measures to protect the Rohingya.

Once regarded as an international rights icon for standing up to Myanmar’s brutal junta, Suu Kyi has seen her reputation tarnished by her decision to side with the military over the Rohingya crisis.

She used a dramatic appearance at the ICJ on Wednesday to say there was no “genocidal intent” behind the operation that led to some 740,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi defended Myanmar’s actions saying it faced an “internal conflict” and that the military conducted “clearance operations” after an attack by Rohingya militants in August 2017.

 ‘Imminent risk of genocide’ 

But Paul Reichler, another of The Gambia’s lawyers, said that those killed included “infants beaten to death or torn from their mothers’ arms and thrown into rivers to drown. How many of them were terrorists?

“Armed conflict can never be an excuse for genocide,” he said.

The lawyer said Suu Kyi had also failed to deny the conclusions of a 2018 UN investigation that found that genocide had been committed in Myanmar against the Rohingya.

“What is most striking is what Myanmar has not denied,” Reichler said.

He also dismissed Suu Kyi’s insistence that Myanmar’s military should be left to probe the allegations itself, saying it was not credible when its own top generals have themselves been accused of genocide.

“How could anyone expect the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to investigate when six of its top generals, including Min Aung Hlaing, have all been accused of genocide by the UN fact-finding mission?” he asked.

The US on Tuesday slapped fresh sanctions including a travel ban on military chief Min Aung Hlaing over the Rohingya crisis.

The lawyer added that Suu Kyi in her speech to the court had also followed Myanmar’s “racist” policy of refusing to refer to the Rohingya Muslim minority by their name.

Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou pushed the court to impose the emergency measures, saying there was a “serious and imminent risk of genocide recurring” and that “the lives of these human beings are at risk.”

Suu Kyi was expected to make closing remarks later Thursday.

A decision on the measures could take months, while a final ruling if the ICJ decides to take on the full case could take years.

AFP

Nobel Peace Laureate Kyi Arrives UN Court For Genocide Hearing

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi looks on as she attends the 10th ASEAN-UN Summit in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit.  Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP

 

Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at the UN’s top court on Tuesday to personally defend Myanmar against accusations of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

Wearing traditional Burmese dress, Myanmar’s civilian leader did not speak to waiting media as she stepped out of a car and entered the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

AFP

Pope Meets Myanmar’s Leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Pope Francis (L) talks to Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw on November 28, 2017. Photo: MAX ROSSI / POOL / AFP

Pope Francis met Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi Tuesday, an AFP reporter said, for keenly-awaited talks in which rights groups hope the pontiff will discuss the country’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslim population.

The pair met at the presidential palace in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw for 45 minutes of scheduled talks, likely to focus on the plight of the 620,000 Rohingya who have fled an army crackdown in Myanmar to Bangladesh.

AFP

Pope To Meet Myanmar’s Leader Suu Kyi

Pope Prays For End To 'Grave Crisis' In Venezuela
Pope Francis. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP

Pope Francis will hold talks with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, a key moment of a tour aimed at alleviating religious and ethnic hatreds that have driven huge numbers of Muslim Rohingya from the country.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been ostracised by a global rights community that once adored her but is now outraged at her tepid reaction to the plight of the Rohingya.

After the talks in the capital Naypyidaw, the pontiff will address Suu Kyi and diplomats there — his first opportunity to speak publicly about the conflict that looms over his trip.

The 80-year-old pontiff late Monday received a “courtesy visit” from the powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing — whose troops, according to the UN and US, have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya from Rakhine state.

General Min Aung Hlaing has firmly denied allegations of widespread brutality by his forces, despite the flight to Bangladesh since late August of 620,000 Rohingya who have recounted widespread cases of rape, murder and arson.

His office said he told the pope there was “no discrimination” in Myanmar, and praised his military for maintaining “the peace and stability of the country”.

The pope has repeatedly spoken out from afar about the crisis, standing up for what he has called his Rohingya “brothers and sisters”.

A similar approach in Myanmar is fraught with danger — using the term “Rohingya” is unacceptable in a mainly Buddhist country where the Muslim minority are denied citizenship and branded illegal “Bengali” immigrants.

The country is listening closely to see if Francis will use the word “Rohingya” on Myanmar soil, and risk provoking the outrage of Buddhist nationalists.

Early Tuesday, day two of his four-day visit, the pontiff met leaders from Buddhist, Muslim, Baptist and Jewish faiths in Yangon.

The conversation centred around themes of unity in diversity, with the pope sharing a prayer and giving a “very, very beautiful speech”, according to Sammy Samuels, a representative from the small Jewish community.

Francis flies up to Naypyidaw Tuesday afternoon to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Lady, as she is fondly known in Myanmar, finally came to power after elections in 2015 but has fallen from grace internationally for not doing more to stand up to the army in defence of the Rohingya — whose name she will not publicly utter.

Rights groups have clamoured for Suu Kyi to be stripped of her peace prize. Oxford, the English city she once called home, on Monday removed her Freedom of the City award for her “inaction” in the face of oppression of the Rohingya.

– Catholics congregate –

So far, the pontiff has received a warm welcome to the majority Buddhist nation.

Myanmar’s Catholic community numbers just over one percent of the country’s 51 million people.

But some 200,000 Catholics are pouring into the commercial capital Yangon from all corners of the country ahead of a huge, open-air mass on Wednesday.

Zaw Sai, 52, from Kachin state, found space for himself and his family to camp out in a churchyard.

“We feel very pleased because we are from different ethnicities but are one in our religion,” he told AFP.

Just days before the papal visit, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal to start repatriating Rohingya refugees within two months.

But details of the agreement — including the use of temporary shelters for returnees, many of whose homes have been burned to the ground — raise questions for Rohingya fearful of returning without guarantees of basic rights.

Francis will travel on to Bangladesh on Thursday.

AFP

Suu Kyi Faces Mounting World Anger Over Rohingya

 

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a national address in Naypyidaw on September 19, 2017. Ye Aung THU / AFP

Aung San Suu Kyi faced mounting criticism Tuesday over what some world leaders are now calling the “ethnic cleansing” of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, despite her plea for patience from the international community.

The head of Myanmar’s civilian administration pledged to hold rights violators to account over the crisis in Rakhine state, but refused to blame Myanmar’s powerful military for the attacks that have driven 421,000 Muslim Rohingya out of her mainly Buddhist country.

But her speech, delivered in English and clearly aimed at deflecting international anger as world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, failed to quell international anger at reports that the Rohingya are being burned out of their homes.

“The military operation must stop, humanitarian access must be guaranteed and the rule of law restored in the face of what we know is ethnic cleansing,” French President Emmanuel Macron told world leaders gathered for the week of high-level diplomacy.

The United States has been careful not to blame Myanmar’s civilian leadership for the attacks because the country’s military retains control of security operations in troubled areas like northern Rakhine, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was moved to call Suu Kyi.

While Tillerson welcomed the pledge to crack down on abuses, he also urged both the government and the military “to address deeply troubling allegations of human rights abuses and violations” during the telephone conversation, his spokeswoman said.

Macron and Tillerson’s concerns echoed those of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who issued a blunt demand that Myanmar halt military operations and of Britain, which suspended training courses for the Myanmar military in light of the violence in Rakhine.

“The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations and allow unhindered humanitarian access,” Guterres told the General Assembly.

“They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.”

Amnesty International joined the outcry, saying Suu Kyi was “burying her head in the sand” over documented army abuses and claims of rape, murder and the systematic clearing of scores of villages.

And in New York, there was pressure from leaders like Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who compared the crisis to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

“If this tragedy in Myanmar is not stopped, the history of humanity will face the embarrassment of another dark stain,” Erdogan said, calling for the Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh to be allowed to return to the homes in which they “have lived for centuries.”

In her long-anticipated speech, Suu Kyi — a former political prisoner and Nobel Peace laureate who won international acclaim for her role in campaigning for a return to elected rule in Myanmar — failed to offer any concrete way out of the crisis.

Supporters and observers say the 72-year-old lacks the authority to rein in the military, which ran the country for 50 years and only recently ceded limited powers to her civilian government.

Myanmar’s army acts without civilian oversight and makes all security decisions, including its notorious scorched-earth counterinsurgency operations.

– Repatriation pledge –

Communal violence has torn through Rakhine state since Rohingya militants staged deadly attacks on police posts on August 25.

An army-led fightback has left scores dead and sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh.

In her 30-minute speech, Suu Kyi reached out to critics who have condemned her failure to speak up for the stateless Rohingya and promised to repatriate refugees in accordance with a “verification” process agreed with Bangladesh in the early 1990s.

“Those who have been verified as refugees from this country will be accepted without any problems,” she added.

In less than a month, just under half of Rakhine’s million-strong Rohingya minority has poured into Bangladesh, where they languish in overcrowded refugee camps.

It was not immediately clear how many would qualify to return.

But their claims to live in Myanmar are at the heart of a toxic debate about the group, who are denied citizenship by the state and considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi’s repatriation pledge “is new and significant,” said Richard Horsey, an independent analyst based in Myanmar, explaining it could allow for the return of those who can prove residence in Myanmar — rather than citizenship.

But in the monsoon-soaked shanties in Bangladesh, there was anguish among refugees over how they would meet any requirements.

“We don’t have any papers,” said 55-year-old Abdur Razzak.

“If the government is honestly speaking to resolve our crisis, then we are ready to go back now,” he added. “Nobody wants to live in such squalid conditions as a refugee.”

– No more violence? –

Suu Kyi insisted army “clearance operations” finished on September 5.

But AFP reporters have seen homes on fire in the days since then, while multiple testimonies from refugees arriving in Bangladesh suggest such operations have continued.

Without blaming any group, Suu Kyi promised to punish anyone found guilty of abuses “regardless of their religion, race or political position.”

And she insisted Rakhine was not a state in flames, saying: “More than 50 percent of the villages of Muslims are intact.”

Around 170 Rohingya villages have been razed, the government admits. Rights groups say satellite evidence shows the damage is more widespread.

While stories of weary and hungry Rohingya have dominated global headlines, there is little sympathy for them among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

Around 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have also been displaced — apparent targets of August 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

Loathing for the Rohingya has brought the public, including pro-democracy activists, into an unlikely alignment with an army that once had them under its heel.

Suu Kyi’s speech was warmly welcomed in Myanmar, even though no Burmese subtitles were provided.

“She told the real situation to the world on behalf of Myanmar people,” Yu Chan Myae told AFP.

AFP

Suu Kyi To Run Myanmar Foreign Ministry

Suu KyiAung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) won historic elections in Myanmar, is to take a formal role in the new cabinet.

The constitution bars Ms Suu Kyi from the presidency because her two sons are British citizens, as was her late husband. She had been widely expected not to take a ministry.

She had pledged to circumvent the ban by running the country through a proxy president, and last week the parliament nominated Suu Kyi’s confidant, Htin Kyaw, for the top job.

Until the cabinet nominations were read out to parliament by the speaker on Tuesday, it had been unclear whether Suu Kyi would join the executive or would seek to guide the government from outside as the leader of the ruling party.

The constitution also bars serving ministers from political party activities or sitting in parliament as lawmakers.

“It doesn’t matter how many ministries she takes, as she will run the whole government anyway,” said Win Htein, a senior NLD politician close to Suu Kyi.

The 18-member cabinet list submitted by President-elect Htin Kyaw to parliament did not specify the portfolios each minister would hold.

But a separate list obtained by Reuters from sources in parliament showed Nobel peace prize laureate Suu Kyi’s name next to four ministries: minister of the president’s office, foreign affairs, electric power and energy, and education.

It was unclear whether Suu Kyi would run all four departments when the new government takes office next month. A senior NLD member told Reuters her name was put forward for several ministries after some prospective candidates declined to join the cabinet at the last minute.

Holding the post of foreign minister would give Suu Kyi a seat on the National Defence and Security Council, an important presidential advisory group dominated by the still-powerful military.

“Aung San Suu Kyi will entrust the party in parliament in the hands of other NLD elders, as expected, and assume a role within the cabinet,” said Nyantha Maw Lin, Managing Director at political consultancy, Vriens & Partners in Yangon.

“She understands that ultimately, power lies with the executive, which holds the reins on the peace process, foreign policy, the economy, and most importantly, relations with the military.”

The list of proposed ministers also included some former senior government officials, as well as a member of the army-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), reflecting Suu Kyi’s stated desire to form an inclusive government.

Myanmar Names Presidential Candidates, Disqualifies Suu Kyi

MyanmarMyanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has nominated two candidates for the Presidency, as the country starts the process of selecting a new leader.

The party has named Htin Kyaw as its Lower House nominee for Vice President and a lawmaker from the Chin Ethnic minority, Henry Vantriu, as its Upper House nominee.

Both houses would separately choose between the NLD’s candidates and those from other parties.

The winner from each House would go on to a second vote which would also feature a military nominated candidate, to decide the President of the country.

The nominations confirmed that NLD leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, would not be Myanmar’s President.

However, Miss Suu Kyi had previously said that she would be ‘above’ the President.

Myanmar Begins New Parliament 

Myanmar Lawmakers in Myanmar are gathering for a new session of parliament where they are expected to choose the country’s first democratically elected government in over 50 years.

It is an assembly dominated by MPs from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which won 80% of elected seats in November’s poll.

Aung San Suu Kyi leads her National League for Democracy (NLD) party into Myanmar’s parliament, taking a majority of seats and starting the process of installing a democratically elected government.

Hundreds of NLD parliamentarians, many of them former political prisoners during successive military regimes, took their seats in the lower house on Monday morning.

A quarter of all seats are reserved for the military, which also retains key ministries under the constitution.

One of the new parliament’s first jobs will be to choose a new president.

Outgoing leader Thein Sein steps down at the end of March, but Ms Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, is constitutionally barred from standing because her sons are British.

However, she has vowed to rule the country through the new leader.

Myanmar’s Former Military Ruler, Than Shwe Supports Suu Kyi

Myanmar electionMyanmar’s former military ruler, General Than Shwe, has pledged support for erstwhile foe, Aung San Suu Kyi, as the country’s ‘future leader’, in a secret meeting.

Details of the meeting between the two, which held of Friday, were revealed by General Than Shwe’s grandson, who acted as intermediary.

Ms Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to a landslide election victory in October.

The 80-year-old Than Shwe, who led Myanmar’s military junta until he stepped down in 2011, still wields enormous influence.

It is not clear whether General Shwe’s comments amount to a commitment to help Ms Suu Kyi change the clause of the constitution that bars her from becoming President because she has foreign children.

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi In Transition Talks With Sein

Myanmar's Suu Kyi In Transition Talks With SeinMyanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won a landslide victory in elections last month, has met President Thein Sein to discuss the handover of power.

She will also separately meet the Army Chief, Min Aung Hlaing.

Both men have pledged to assist in a smooth transfer of power after decades of military-backed rule.

Mrs Suu Kyi is constitutionally barred from becoming president, but has said she would be above the person she nominates for the role.

A spokesman for Mr Sein said the discussion with Mrs Suu Kyi lasted 45 minutes and focused on how to achieve a peaceful transition of power.

The army ruled Myanmar from 1962 until 2011, when a military-backed civilian government came into power led by Sein and ushered in a series of reforms.

Suu Kyi’s NLD Wins Myanmar’s Historic Election

Suu Kyi's NLD Wins Myanmar's Historic ElectionMyanmar’s electoral commission has finally declared the National League for Democracy (NLD) winner of the country’s historic election.

With over 80% of seats declared, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party has more than the two-thirds it needs to control parliament and choose the president, ending decades of military-backed rule.

But a quarter of seats were given uncontested to the military, meaning it remains hugely influential.

Ms Suu Kyi cannot become President because the constitution specifically bars anyone whose children were born foreign nationals from holding the job as both her sons were born British.

However, the Nobel peace prize laureate who spent decades under military-imposed house arrest, insisted she would lead the country anyway should her party win.

The election was seen as the first openly contested poll in Myanmar in 25 years.

Myanmar Awaits Results Of Landmark Election

Myanmar electionMyanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) says it is poised for victory as the country awaits results of the first openly contested national election in 25 years.

An NLD leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has hinted at victory saying: “I think you all have the idea of the results”.

The Military-backed Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) has been in power since 2011.

If the NLD wins two-thirds of the contested parliamentary seats, it will end decades of military control.

The full results will not be known for at least a few days, and the President will only be chosen in February or possibly later.

In a pre-election speech on Friday, President Sein stressed the government’s commitment to ensuring a credible vote, with more than 10,000 observers scrutinising the process, in which 91 parties partook.