International Court a battleground for recognition . . .
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began preliminary hearings on Monday in a case brought by The Gambia against Myanmar in 2019 alleging acts of genocide against the latter’s Rohingya minority. The decision to allow Myanmar’s military government to represent the country at the hearings despite having no formal standing at the United Nations drew sharp criticisms. The National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow government that includes deposed lawmakers, said the inclusion was tantamount to conferring legitimacy to the junta. Despite the issue of representation, Rohingya groups say the case is an important step in bringing justice and accountability in Myanmar. While a decision by the ICJ on the merits of the genocide accusation could take years to reach, a 2018 UN investigation found that crackdowns on the Rohingya had been carried out with “genocidal intent.”
Myanmar conspicuous by its absence . . .
Last week, ASEAN foreign ministers held their annual retreat in Phnom Penh, which had been postponed after several member states opposed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s attempt to invite Myanmar’s military-appointed minister. This time around, junta leaders refused to send even a non-political representative claiming it would “contradict the principles and practices of equal representation in ASEAN.” Prak Sokhonn, Cambodia’s foreign minister, was officially appointed at the meeting as the bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar and stated that he would engage with all parties, including the NUG. However, while this approach has been endorsed by countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, other ASEAN members’ stances are more muted. Divisions within the regional bloc may challenge its ability to contribute to a solution for the crisis in Myanmar.
Arms, cash still flowing to Myanmar . . .
While the February 1, 2021 coup continues to attract widespread condemnation as the junta perpetuates violence against civilians, a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Myanmar found that several states, including Security Council members Russia and China, continue to provide fighter jets and armoured vehicles to the Myanmar military. Another report by activist group Justice for Myanmar also revealed that several Southeast Asian nations have supplied arms to the junta as well as investments to military-owned businesses in the energy, telecom, and financial sectors. The report called out six ASEAN members: Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, and Thailand. Experts and activists have urged governments and companies to cut their support to the Myanmar junta, as a reduction in revenues would significantly diminish its capacity to equip and sustain its large military force.