Myanmar army chief angry at UN for exposing genocide

Myanmar army chief angry at UN for exposing genocide
3 min read
24 September, 2018
The UN released a 444-page report last week that said the military's persecution of the stateless Rohingya Muslims warranted the charges of "genocide".
General Min Aung Hlaing giving a speech [Getty]

Myanmar's powerful army chief blasted the UN on Monday, a week after investigators called for him and other top generals to be prosecuted for "genocide" against the Rohingya Muslim minority. 

Min Aung Hlaing also said the UN has no right to interfere in his country's sovereignty. 

His comments to an army newspaper were his first public reaction since a UN fact-finding mission urged the Security Council to refer the top military brass to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

They came as the UN General Assembly prepares to discuss the crisis in New York.

Min Aung Hlaing also shrugged off demands from UN investigators for the army to withdraw from politics in Myanmar, where it remains hugely influential despite a nominal transition to civilian rule in 2011.

The 444-page UN probe report, compiled over 18 months, outlined in meticulous and searing detail atrocities against the Rohingya, who fled a violent military campaign that started in August last year.

Troops, sometimes aided by ethnic Rakhine mobs, committed murder, rape, arson and torture, using unfathomable levels of violence and with a total disregard for human life, investigators concluded.

The report said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the atrocities were committed with the intention of destroying the stateless Rohingya, warranting the charges of "genocide". 

More than 700,000 Rohingya took refuge in Bangladesh, where they remain -- fearful of returning to mainly Buddhist Myanmar despite a repatriation deal between the two countries.

The military has denied nearly all wrongdoing, justifying its crackdown as a legitimate means of rooting out Rohingya militants.

But rights groups and the UN say the operations were vastly disproportionate and a troop build-up in the area occurred before insurgents attacked police posts in August 2017.

Further pressuring Myanmar, the ICC independently ruled that it had jurisdiction to open a preliminary investigation, even though the country has not signed the treaty underpinning the court.

"We're hearing informally that they're very, very flustered about what's happening at The Hague," said Khin Zaw Win, director of Yangon-based think tank the Tampadipa Institute, in reference to the ICC's headquarters.

Myanmar's civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi rejected the UN report's findings as "one-sided" and "flawed" and dismissed the ICC's authority.

Suu Kyi's government shares power with the still-mighty army, which retains control over a quarter of parliamentary seats and three key ministries.

The UN team also criticised the Nobel laureate's government for "acts and omissions" during the Rohingya crisis that "contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes".

In his speech the army chief doubled down on the narrative widely held in Myanmar that the minority are outsiders, calling them "Bengalis" and insisting that the law which fails to recognise the group among the country's many ethnicities would remain in place.  

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