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MYANMAR’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi today denied that her country’s armed forces committed genocide against its Rohingya minority.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner told the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague that the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Muslims was the unfortunate result of a battle with insurgents.
Ms Suu Kyi refuted allegations that the army had killed civilians, raped women and torched houses in 2017 — in what has been branded a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
A UN fact-finding mission previously described the military clearance operation in the northern state of Rakhine, which resulted in over 700,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh and left thousands dead, as “brutal” and warned that Myanmar was failing to prevent a genocide.
Myanmar has always insisted it was tackling an extremist threat in Rakhine, a stance which Ms Suu Kyi maintained today — describing the violence as an “internal armed conflict” triggered by Rohingya militant attacks on government security posts.
Acknowledging that Myanmar’s military might have at times used disproportionate force and that one helicopter attack may have killed “non-combatants,” she said that if soldiers had committed war crimes “they will be prosecuted.”
Ms Suu Kyi has lead Myanmar since April 2016, before the alleged genocide began.
She does not have control over the army but has been accused by the UN of “complicity” in military clearances.
Ms Suu Kyi also told the court that Gambia, which brought the legal action against Myanmar, had provided “an incomplete and misleading factual picture” of what happened in 2017.
Gambia alleges that genocide was committed and is still ongoing. The African country has asked the ICJ to take action to stop the violence, including “all measures within its power to prevent all acts that amount to or contribute to the crime of genocide” in Myanmar.
But Ms Suu Kyi said developments in one of Myanmar’s poorest regions are “complex and not easy to fathom” and insisted that the country’s armed forces had tried “to reduce collateral damage” during the offensive.
The court’s hearings on Myanmar are scheduled to end tomorrow.
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