111 510 510 libonline@riphah.edu.pk Contact

A year on

Exactly one year ago, on February 1, the Myanmar military launched a coup and opened another bloody chapter in my country’s history. Since then, the junta has driven the state to the brink of collapse and committed widespread atrocities. There is now only one way to break this cycle of abuse: pursuing mechanisms of international justice that can hold those responsible to account.

Over the past 12 months, there has been a steady stream of horrific news from Myanmar, as more than 1,500 people have been killed in protest crackdowns and massacres. In one recent incident, on Christmas Eve, the army massacred some 35 people – including women and children and two charity workers – in Kayah State. Thousands of others have been arrested while the junta has made routine use of torture against those protesting against its rule. At the same time, the economy has suffered a severe decline, while healthcare and education services have ground to a halt. While Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta chief, has delusions about bringing in new electric trains to expand national public transport, the rest of the country is suffering through daily, crippling blackouts.

In Rakhine State, the Rohingya minority continues to face an ongoing genocide and live in what amounts to an open-air prison. The junta has arrested Rohingya trying to flee to Bangladesh and imposed even tighter restrictions on freedom of movement. Many are also caught in the crossfire in the simmering conflict between the military and the Arakan Army armed group.

If there is a silver lining from the coup, no matter how small, it is the renewed sense of interethnic solidarity. As a Rohingya, I often used to face abuse when I posted on social media about the army’s crimes in the past. Now, however, I receive support, understanding, and even apologies from those who used to spew hatred against Rohingya. People have realised that the military is our common enemy.

The Tatmadaw, as the military is known in the country, has terrorised the people of Myanmar for decades, committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. They have done so with absolute impunity, knowing their crimes would have no consequences. That is why we need the international community to step in and provide justice. Thankfully, real progress has been made in this direction in recent years.

In 2019, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it was opening an investigation into crimes against humanity the Tatmadaw committed against the Rohingya. Around the same time, The Gambia brought a genocide case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Both processes are ongoing, giving hope to the military’s many victims.

Last year, the judiciary in Argentina also agreed to take up a landmark genocide case against Myanmar’s military leadership. The case, which my own organisation BROUK first petitioned for, rests on the legal principle of universal jurisdiction, according to which some crimes are so horrific that they can be tried anywhere in the world, regardless of where they took place. The process has only just started, but we hope that ultimately, Min Aung Hlaing and his cronies will answer for their crimes in a court of law.

Tun Khin, "A year on," The News. 2022-02-02.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , International community , Myanmar military , Judiciary , Humanity , Crimes , Gen Min Aung Hlaing , Bangladesh , Rohingya , ICJ , ICC