The West should listen to Suu Kyi at The Hague

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By Yu Ning Source:Global Times

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counselor and de facto leader, will defend Myanmar against accusations of genocide at The Hague in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

Her decision to appear at the tribunal startled many outside Myanmar. Many Western media outlets, analysts and human rights observers accused the Nobel peace laureate of condoning human rights abuses and seeking to gain political points by deciding to testify in person.

But they neglect the fact, deliberately or not, that as the leader of Myanmar, Suu Kyi knows her country, the difficulties in solving the Rohingya conundrum and the efforts the country has made in solving the problem, better than any outsider.

The Rohingya issue is extremely complicated, with historical, ethnic, religious, and economic factors closely intertwined. It cannot be solved in a short period of time. What has made the issue thornier is that some Rohingya Muslims have taken up arms, launching attacks. History in South Asian countries shows that as long as religious conflicts turn into armed struggles, a humanitarian crisis will surely occur.

Military operations launched against the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which has been declared a terrorist group by the Myanmar government, after it attacked police posts in Rakhine state in northern Myanmar, led thousands of Rohingya people to flee their homes since August 25, 2017.

Suu Kyi said in a speech in Singapore in August that “the danger of terrorist activities, which was the initial cause of events leading to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine, remains real and present today.” However, the West accused Myanmar of carrying out “genocidal violence” against the Rohingya community, turning a deaf ear to what the country and its leaders have said.

Why should the West have the final say on human rights issues in non-Western countries? Is it wrong that non-Western countries address their own problems in their own way based on actual conditions? The West hasn’t offered a solution to Myanmar’s Rohingya conundrum. Its criticism and accusations against the country is of no help to resolving the issue, but will only fuel confrontation in Myanmar.

The Rohingya issue is merely a topic of discussion for Westerners and they are untouched by its outcome. But no country wants to be divided by race or religion. Myanmar has been working to crack the nut.

China has expressed its support for the Myanmar government’s efforts to protect its domestic stability. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during his recent visit to Myanmar that “China will unswervingly support Myanmar on the international stage to stand up for its legitimate rights and national dignity, and to safeguard the overall situation of its development and stability.”

After Suu Kyi came to power, Myanmar didn’t totally tilt toward the West as the latter had expected. She has chosen to be a pragmatic leader defending Myanmar’s national interests and continued to develop steady and healthy relations with China. As a result, Suu Kyi, the once highly hailed democratic icon, has now been labeled a “spokesperson for mass atrocity” by the West. Some international relations scholars have pointed out that the Rohingya issue has been overly politicized and embroiled in major-power competition.

The West is not as unbiased and just as they have claimed concerning human rights issues. Its criteria can never be regarded as a global yardstick. Solving the Rohingya issue is more difficult than Western critics have thought. The last thing Myanmar needs is their empty talk.

Outsiders should offer sincere help to Myanmar to promote ethnic reconciliation in Rakhine state. The basic rights and interests of local Muslims should be protected, and Myanmar’s efforts to achieve national peace and stability should be fairly evaluated.

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