A case of Myanmar’s defiant response to ICJ ruling

Published: 00:00, Jan 27,2020


TWO Rohingya women died and seven others became injured in shelling — one on the spot and the other after reaching hospital — in northern Rakhine State. While the Myanmar military seeks to pass the blame onto the Arakan Army, rebels reported to be fighting for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, the Arakan Army says that there has been no fighting with the military. Four children died and five others were injured early January after an explosion had hit them. Amidst accusations being traded in the case at hand, media reports in the past show that Myanmar has continued shelling villages of the Rohingyas in Rakhine State — in February, May and December 2019, to name a few occasions, killing the Rohingyas, blocking their access to food and humanitarian assistance, with Myanmar’s security forces having used vague and repressive laws to detain civilians. But the latest incident — which took place days after the highest UN judicial organ, the International Court of Justice, had ordered Myanmar to ‘take all measures within its power’ to prevent the ‘commission of all acts’, described by the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, that are likened to genocide — constitutes arrogance on part of Myanmar in continuity with the defiance that it showed in rejecting the ICJ ruling.

More than 1.1 million of the Rohingyas — about 740,000 since August 2017 and the rest having lived here since the late 1970s in phases — fled violence by Myanmar’s military in Rakhine State to Bangladesh. Efforts to repatriate the Rohingyas since August 2017 have faltered twice — in recent times on August 22, 2019 and earlier on November 15, 2018 under an arrangement signed on January 16, 2018 and a deal signed on November 23, 2017 — mostly because Myanmar had continued creating a fearful situation for the Rohingyas in Rakhine State, with none living in Cox’s Bazar camps voluntarily turning up to accept the repatriation offer, citing a ‘lack of a congenial atmosphere’ in their homeland. The UN court on Thursday also ordered Myanmar to report back first in four months and then every six months after taking all measures to stop ‘killing members of the group’ and ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part’ and to prevent the destruction of any evidence of crimes against the Rohingyas. Myanmar’s latest move centring on the Rohingyas, which runs into an affront to the ICJ ruling, further appears to be a ploy to make living of the Rohingyas in Rakhine State difficult by creating a fearful situation and to frustrate any move for a dignified, voluntary repatriation of the Rohingyas in a sustainable manner.

Dhaka must, in such a situation, engage deeply with, generally, all countries and, especially, Myanmar’s friends such as China, Japan, India and Russia that have so far somehow played a role in putting off the resolution of the Rohingya crisis at international forums, specifically at the United Nations, to proceed further with the repatriation issues. Dhaka must impress upon all that the region would continue to face problems unless the issues of the Rohingyas are sustainably resolved. It should also put in the required efforts in other instruments and avenues.

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