Advertisement

Why Aung San Suu Kyi - as much as Myanmar - is facing the world's verdict once more

Not so long ago, Aung San Suu Kyi was morality personified. Now she is defending her country as it faces the most damning charge there is – the intentional destruction of a people: genocide.

Many human rights groups have been appalled by her attitude to the campaign waged by Myanmar’s military against the Rohingya people of Rakhine state.

An offensive launched in August 2017 resulted in almost three-quarters of a million of them fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh, where most still languish today.

The accusation of genocide has been brought by Gambia on behalf of the Muslim world.

The International Court of Justice in the Hague is being asked to effectively place a restraining order on Myanmar so the Rohingya can be protected from further abuses before the case can be heard in full.

In the court today, Aung San Suu Kyi laid out the defence case. She said Gambia had presented "an incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation".

She acknowledged that disproportionate force may have been used but said "genocidal intent" could not be the only explanation for what happened.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh. Credit: AP

Genocide is hard to prove and has only been done so at the Hague three times before - in respect of Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia.

The military she is defending held Miss Suu Kyi under house arrest for 15 years.

Those of us who witnessed her euphoric release in 2010 had no idea that this beacon of humanity would go on to downplay the persecution of a minority in her homeland.

Rallies in support of her in Yangon explain why she is doing it. Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country and most of them loathe the Rohingya.

Many people support Aung San Suu Kyi for defending Myanmar. Credit: AP

The majority of Burmese believe that by defending her country Miss Suu Kyi is doing her patriotic duty. Also, her conduct may serve her well come next year’s general election.

But her reputation globally remains very much at risk. She treads a fine line indeed.

As a nobel laureate, she’s already been convincing enough to be a recipient of the world’s greatest peace prize.

Now she, just as much as her country, is facing the world’s verdict once more.