Buddhist world must support Myanmar at the UN and International Court of Justice
Posted on December 6th, 2019

By Senaka Weeraratna

Gambia, acting on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Co – operation (OIC), has filed a lawsuit against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), allegedly on the ground of committing the crime of Genocide.

The Government of Myanmar has taken up the challenge to contest this case at the ICJ and the State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, in her capacity as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will lead the legal team to defend her nation.

Myanmar’s legal team is expected to argue that genocide did not occur, that the top U.N. court lacks jurisdiction and that the case fails to meet a requirement that a dispute exists between Myanmar and Gambia.

The proceedings are scheduled to commence on December 10, 2019 at the Hague and continue for three days of hearings. Under the Charter of the United Nations (UN), all member states of the UN, including Myanmar, are bound by the Statute of the ICJ. 

The crime of ‘Genocide’ means acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national or racial group. It is an issue that concerns all civilized nations and peoples, especially those who were victims of colonial rule during the last 500 years against whom much of the brazen acts of Genocide were committed in many parts of the world.

Myanmar has taken an explicit stand on the issue of Genocide by becoming a signatory to the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide on 14th March 1956. On the occasion of seeking the approval of Parliament for subscribing to the Geneva Convention, the Minister concerned declared to Parliament on 2nd September 1955, I can state with full confidence that today Myanmar has not engaged in any act to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, racial, or religious group or any other group. This has not happened today and it will not happen in the future”.

In a Press Release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Myanmar dated November 27, 2019, it is stated that Today, Myanmar is as resolute as we were when we ratified the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.”

Both the Government of Myanmar and its armed forces face many internal problems related to ethnic tensions. Turning to recent events in Myanmar, the ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army) with links to radical Islamic terrorist groups have been responsible in Rakhine for acts of terrorism and slaughter of the innocents. This co -ordinated terrorist attack with foreign elements took place in early 2018. Therefore, the elected Government of Myanmar with a mandate to protect the citizens of Myanmar, had no choice but to send its armed forces to Rakhine in order to protect Buddhists, Hindus, and various indigenous Tribal Groups, who faced the wrath of ARSA and the Bengali Muslims who have infiltrated Rakhine heavily with intent to grab land and dispossess the original inhabitants namely the citizens of Myanmar, from their traditional home land in Rakhine.  

A propaganda war has been launched against Myanmar by the OIC and the highly prejudiced international media such as Al Jazeera that totally ignores the Bengali Muslim land grab that blights Rakhine, the Chittagong Hill Tracts (Bangladesh), and various parts of India including Assam.

A similar situation of organized and co -ordinated violence arose in Sri Lanka, when on Easter Sunday April 21, 2019, suicide bombers linked to radical Islamic terrorist groups killed 259 people and injured over 500 people.   Three churches and three luxury hotels in Colombo were targeted in a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings.

Both Myanmar and Sri Lanka have a shared past linked to Theravada Buddhism running for over a thousand years. History shows that both countries had assisted each other in times of crisis when the survival of each country was at stake. An existential threat from a common source intending to displace Buddhism in both countries persists today. This trend is clearly visible in the narrative of the disappearance and replacement of Buddhism in several Asian countries during the last one thousand years.

The Dharmic (Indo – Buddhist) world must take cognizance of these historical developments and ask the question whether the current happenings in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand (all Theravada Buddhist countries now besieged ) are but a continuation of a calibrated process set in motion over a thousand years ago to dislodge and finally replace Buddhism from its traditional primacy in Buddhist Asia.

It is worthy of note that Indian civilizational influence outside India prevails largely in Buddhist countries of Asia. The failure to counter aggressive Abrahamic incursions can only lead to the shrinking of Buddhist and Hindu space in South Asia, South East Asia and the Far East. It is in India’s long – term interest as a rising world power to extend both support and protection to countries where India’s Dharmic civilizational influence prevails and continues to be valued and deeply respected.

What can India and Buddhist majority countries do at the UN and International Court of Justice?

a)    Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Nepal must join hands with China, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and several other countries that have unreservedly given their unqualified support to Myanmar at the UN.

b)    It is open to any country to intervene at the International Court of Justice in the capacity of an amicus curiae. What is ‘amicus curiae’? Latin ‘for friend of the court’. In other words, amicus curiae is an instrument for the benefit of the court, that assists it in some manner. Black’s Law Dictionary defines amicus curiae as ‘[a] person who is not a party to a lawsuit but who petitions the court or is requested by the court to file a brief in the action because that person has a strong interest in the subject matter.’ It is within the power of the ICJ to accept Amicus Curiae briefs from countries that have a strong interest in the proceedings and its outcome.

OIC is in the picture via Gambia. The absence of the equivalent of an OIC such as a summit level League of Buddhist Nations, should not prevent India, Sri Lanka, Thailand from submitting Amicus Curiae briefs to the ICJ. In certain instances, briefs have even been accepted from well established NGO’s. Will the premier International Buddhist Organization namely the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) rise to the occasion and accept this challenge?   

Senaka Weeraratna

December 07, 2019

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