|Burmese General MAH is a devout Buddhist.|
A report by investigators was the first time the United Nations has explicitly called for Myanmar officials to face genocide charges over their campaign against the Rohingya, and is likely to deepen the country’s isolation.
The investigators called for the U.N. Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar, subject its officials to targeted sanctions and set up an ad hoc tribunal to try suspects or refer them to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
The report also could serve as a major catalyst for change in how the world’s big social media companies handle hate speech in parts of the world where they have limited direct presence but their platforms command huge influence.
The investigators sharply criticized Facebook, which has become Myanmar’s dominant social media network despite having no employees there, for letting its platform be used to incite violence and hatred.
Facebook responded on Monday by announcing it was blocking 20 Myanmar officials and organizations found by the U.N. panel to have “committed or enabled serious human rights abuses”.
The company already acknowledged this month that it had been "too slow" to respond to incitement in Myanmar, following a Reuters investigative report into its failure to tackle rampant hate speech including calls for all Rohingya to be killed.
The U.N. investigators blamed Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, for failing to use her “moral authority” to protect civilians. Her government “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes” by letting hate speech thrive, destroying documents and failing to shield minorities from crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“Our findings are grim,” panel chairman Marzuki Darusman told a news conference on Monday. “We believe that establishing the facts is the first stepping stone towards change.”Contacted by phone, Myanmar military spokesman Major General Tun Tun Nyi said he could not immediately comment. Zaw Htay, spokesman for Suu Kyi’s government, could not immediately be reached for comment. Reuters was also unable to contact the six generals named in the report. The Myanmar government was sent an advance copy of the U.N. report in line with standard practice.
|General MAH attending Shin Wirathu the so-called extremist Buddhist monk.|
A year ago, government troops led a brutal crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 30 Myanmar police posts and a military base. Some 700,000 Rohingya fled the crackdown and most are now living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. The U.N. report said the military action was “grossly disproportionate to actual security threats”.
“The crimes in Rakhine State, and the manner in which they were perpetrated, are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts,” said the U.N. panel, known as the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
The United States, which is preparing its own report on the anti-Rohingya campaign, sees the U.N. findings adding to growing evidence of “widespread human rights abuses” by Myanmar forces, a State Department spokesman said.
But the U.S. government will only decide whether to call it genocide or crimes against humanity - in line with the U.N.’s determinations - “after a thorough review of the available facts and relevant legal analysis,” the spokesman said.
Critics have accused Washington of an overly cautious response to the Rohingya crisis, but a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.N. findings could increase pressure for tougher U.S. action.
Suu Kyi’s government has rejected most allegations of atrocities made against the security forces by refugees. It has built transit centers for refugees to return, but U.N. aid agencies say it is not yet safe for them to do so.
Christopher Sidoti, Marzuki Darusman and Radhika Coomaraswamy, members of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar attends a news conference on the publication of their final written report at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, August 27, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
The report said Suu Kyi “has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events, or seek alternative avenues to meet a responsibility to protect the civilian population”.
In Brussels, the European Union’s executive said it would meet this week with the U.N. panel and discuss further steps. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will use all information at his disposal, including a U.S. report compiled from refugees’ accounts but which has yet to be released, to decide how to “advance accountability” in Myanmar, his spokesman said.
Washington this month imposed sanctions on four military and police commanders and two army units but the military chief was spared. New sanctions are under consideration for half a dozen others, U.S. officials have said. But the State Department spokesman declined to specify what “additional tools” the United States would use.
The United Nations defines genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. Such a designation is rare, but has been used in countries including Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan. The investigators documented rapes, sexual slavery and abductions, including of children, said panel member Radhika Coomeraswamy.
“The scale, brutality and systematic nature of rape and (sexual) violence indicate that they are part of deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorize or punish the civilian population. They are used as a tactic of war,” she said. Darusman said commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing should step down pending investigation.
The list of generals also included Brigadier-General Aung Aung, commander of the 33rd Light Infantry Division, which oversaw operations in the coastal village of Inn Din where 10 Rohingya captive boys and men were killed.
The incident, for which seven soldiers have since been jailed, was uncovered by two Reuters journalists - Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28 - who were arrested last December and are being tried on charges of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. The court had been due to deliver a verdict in their case on Monday, but postponed the proceedings until Sept. 3.
Other generals named in the report included army deputy commander-in-chief Vice Senior-General Soe Win; the commander of the Bureau of Special Operations-3, Lieutenant-General Aung Kyaw Zaw; the commander of Western Regional Military Command, Major-General Maung Maung Soe; and the commander of 99th Light Infantry Division, Brigadier-General Than Oo.
Panel member Christopher Sidoti said “the clarity of the chain of command in Myanmar” meant the six generals must be prosecuted, even in the absence of a “smoking gun” piece of evidence to prove who had ordered the crimes.
“We do not have a copy of a direct order that says ‘undertake genocide tomorrow please’. But that is the case almost universally when cases of genocide have gone before the courts,” Sidoti said.
|Dead Burmese policemen killed and mutilated by the so-called Rohingya Muslims.|
(UN-Muslims believe the Burmese Army's response is grossly disproportionate.)
“OPPRESSION FROM BIRTH TO DEATH”
The U.N. panel, set up last year, interviewed 875 victims and witnesses in Bangladesh and other countries, and analyzed documents, videos, photographs and satellite images. Decades of state-sponsored stigmatization against Rohingya had resulted in “institutionalized oppression from birth to death”, the report said.
The Rohingya, who regard themselves as native to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, are widely considered as interlopers by the country’s Buddhist majority and are denied citizenship. Members of the panel had accused Facebook in March of allowing its platform to be used to incite violence. The report said the social media company should have acted quicker.
“Although improved in recent months, Facebook’s response has been slow and ineffective. The extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to real-world discrimination and violence must be independently and thoroughly examined,” it said.
In a statement announcing its action on Monday, Facebook said it was removing 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages. “The ethnic violence in Myanmar has been truly horrific. Earlier this month, we shared an update on the steps we’re taking to prevent the spread of hate and misinformation on Facebook. While we were too slow to act, we’re now making progress – with better technology to identify hate speech, improved reporting tools, and more people to review content.”
|Burmese General MAH meeting Chinese President Xi the protector.|
UN call to try military chief Min Aung Hlaing for 'genocide' is unlikely to reach any court and will only push the isolated nation even closer to China.
It is still unclear whether Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is more upset by a United Nations report that recommends he be charged and tried for “genocide” for his military’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, or Facebook’s coincident decision to shutter his account for disseminating information the company said “enabled serious human-rights abuses in the country.”
Yangon-based observers suggest that being shunned by Facebook could be more damaging for the loss of face it caused the military in a nation where the platform is hugely popular. Min Aung Hlaing’s account, along with other military-run pages such as the Myawady television network and Myanmar Daily Star newspaper, had more than six million combined subscribers.
The UN Human Rights Council’s report, released in part on August 27, is more strongly worded than any previous document produced by a UN-appointed commission. It mentions “genocide”, a crime under international law and therefore considerably more serious than previous claims of “ethnic cleansing.”
The latter term has no legal bearing, but has been used by United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, among others, in referring to the Myanmar military’s crackdown on the Rohingya.
It is highly unlikely that the UN report, compiled by a group of international legal experts, will lead as suggested to charges being filed at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC). Instead, it will likely drive Myanmar even closer to China, its main foreign ally and diplomatic protector in international fora like the UN Security Council.
Unlike Western nations that have strongly criticized Myanmar’s military abuses in Rakhine state, China has remained largely quiescent. While Myanmar’s military, or Tatmadaw, must depend on Beijing’s support at the UN Security Council, where China has vetoed previous attempts by the West to impose sanctions over the Rohingya issue, its top generals remain suspicious of China’s long-term ambitions in their country.
Sources close to the military’s top brass say they see China as a tactical partner in managing international opinion, but at the same time feel the need to defend the country’s sovereignty against China’s strong commercial and strategic advances, which they aim to keep within certain boundaries and hedge by engaging other major powers.
The Rohingya crisis, which since last August has seen as many as 800,000 refugees driven across the border into neighboring Bangladesh, has limited the Tatmadaw’s room for maneuver as the country falls back to pariah status in the view of much of the West.
China’s ongoing plans to build a deep-sea port at Rakhine state’s Kyaukpyu and connect it with a high-speed railway to its southern province of Yunnan – part of Beijing’s US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative – is viewed skeptically in military circles as an attempt to turn Myanmar into a pawn in its fast expanding global economic empire.
Myanmar’s civilian government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD), is seen by China as more conciliatory to such designs and perhaps easier to manipulate with promises of economic largesse, Yangon-based observers say. China earlier perceived Suu Kyi, a Noble Peace Prize winner for her non-violent resistance to military rule, as a staunch ally of the West.
But as Suu Kyi’s former Western allies condemn her for not acting or speaking out on the Rohingya crisis, with some even stripping her of awards she received for her long struggle for democracy, she reportedly feels betrayed and has turned to China for counterbalancing support.
At the same time, Beijing has skillfully courted her NLD by inviting its leading members to China for all-paid “friendship visits.” China also paid for the renovation of the Daw Khin Kyi Women Hospital in Yangon, which is named after Suu Kyi’s mother, and has contributed to several charities run by people close to the NLD.
Suu Kyi’s elected government is legally and administratively hemmed in by the autonomous military, which maintains full control of the powerful defense, home and border affairs ministries. That means Suu Kyi lacks any command control over the troops who were allegedly involved in acts the UN now says constitute genocide.
Still, Suu Kyi has astounded many observers by defending the clampdown to avoid antagonizing the top brass and destabilizing her already weak government. Her government predictably rejected the UN’s assessment, with its Ambassador to the UN Hau Do Suan saying it questioned the mission’s “objectivity, impartiality and sincerity,” according to news reports.
After the UN mission’s presentation of a preview of its findings and recommendations (the full report will be made public in September) the US and other UN Security Council members chimed in with calls for Myanmar’s military leaders, including Min Aung Hlaing, to be held responsible for the alleged crimes at the ICC.
It will be easier said than done, however, to prosecute Min Aung Hlaing and his fellow military officers mentioned in the UN report at the ICC. Myanmar is not within the ICC’s jurisdiction because it is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, under which the court was established in 1998.
The Hague-based ICC, which began functioning in 2002, works closely with UN agencies and could take up the genocide charge if the UN Security Council unanimously agrees. But China and Russia, both permanent Council members, will most likely block any such move through their veto powers.
Bangladesh, which is one of the Rome Statute’s 123 signatories, could conceivably bring the case to the ICC if it could be proven that the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military come under its jurisdiction.
But when asked by the ICC in June to give the government’s opinion regarding the issue of jurisdiction, Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Shahriar Alam said “we have provided the information only as requested by the court…Bangladesh is still committed to settle the matter bilaterally.”
Even if the ICC commenced proceedings and reached a verdict, Min Aung Hlaing and his colleagues would not risk arrest unless they traveled to signatory countries. Major partners such as China, India, Russia and Israel are not Rome Statute signatories. Neither is the US, though it’s not clear the now disgraced military commander would be invited to Washington for any reason any time soon.
The only impact the UN report and its seemingly unrealistic recommendations may have on Min Aung Hlaing is that the bad exposure could hit his chances of pursuing a post-military political career. Many observers believe he eyes a run for the presidency at the next general elections, due to be held in 2020.
According to sources close to the Tatmadaw, some in the officer corps see a “NLD hand” in the UN’s “genocide” assessment and Facebook’s military ban as a backhanded attempt to discredit the military and bolster its position vis-à-vis the generals.
To clear the air, the government issued a statement saying that it did not have any advance notice of the Facebook ban. “Neither the government nor [the government’s] social media monitoring team played a part in [the decision by Facebook],” presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said.
The winner in the ruckus will likely be China, which both the civilian government and military will now look to for support in an hour of diplomatic need. But the two sides’ different perceptions of the nature and terms of that relationship could break into the open as international pressure builds for justice and local politics intensify ahead of the next elections.
|As long as the crude and gas are flowing through the trans-Burma pipelines China will never let|
General MAH and ASSK face International Criminal Court.