New Straits Times

When push comes to putsch...

Time for Tatmadaw to go


BRITAIN is calling for yet another United Nations Security Council meeting, this time tomorrow. It appears China, which has close relations with Myanmar, is going along with the request. What is sad is the clock at the UN headquarte­rs in New York keeps a different, and a slow, time. The military, or Tatmadaw to the locals, overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on Feb 1 and yet all we have from the world body is a flood of rhetorics. Long enough for the UN to be able to say “Myanmar is like a battlefiel­d”. Doesn’t the UN know that the Tatmadaw country has been and continues to be, for 70 years or so, a “battlefiel­d” where the Rohingya and other non-Bamar minorities have fallen? Rhetorics is dangerous for another reason. The seasoned war criminals in the Tatmadaw know that the UN’s rhetorics and those of the Western powers and allies are just like spent bullets. All talk and no action. The Tatmadaw has been in deja vu territory time after time. After all, the Tatmadaw has been at its murderous schemes in the midst of such rhetorics from high places for the longest time. The point is this: empty threats are far more dangerous than no threats at all.

Myanmar is in a sad state. There are two reasons for this. One is the Tatmadaw. The other is Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy. The Tamadaw is filled with war criminals in positions of power. The UNSC must purge the Tatmadaw of the criminal elements and refer them to the Internatio­nal Criminal Court, an authority that is within the powers of the law-making body. The rest must be sent back to the barracks. Should this ICC referral fail because a friend or two of the military regime are concerned that Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Treaty like some of the UNSC members are, there is yet another route to justice. The UNSC, by way of a resolution, can set up an ad hoc Myanmar tribunal to try the war criminals, if its members are sincere about being just to the victims of war crimes. Be that as it may, the ICC has recently ruled that it has jurisdicti­on to try alleged criminals from non-member states, so long as the crimes continue into member states. The Myanmar-Bangladesh nexus in the persecutio­n of the Rohingya is a case in point.

As for Suu Kyi, she should be helped back to the seat of the government, but with two conditions. Firstly, she will ensure that the ICC or any other court is free to investigat­e and charge war criminals, whoever they may be. Secondly, she will work towards making Myanmar an inclusive nation for all, including the Rohingya. Myanmar cannot be a country just for the Bamar. There are 135 ethnic minorities in Myanmar and they make up 35 per cent of the 54 million people there. Suu Kyi has not always been an inclusive leader. She finds it hard to be kind to her country’s ethnic minorities, especially the Rohingya. Some accuse her of being complicit in the Tatmadaw’s war crimes against the Rohingya and other minorities. This must change if she wants to regain the Nobel Peace Prize halo she lost so quickly. Before that, she may even have to clear her name of complicity in war crimes.

The point is this: empty threats are far more dangerous than no threats at all.

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