Friday, 13 Dec 2019

Supporters rally behind Myanmar's Suu Kyi before genocide trial

Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi have embarked on an impassioned publicity campaign as the Myanmar leader prepares to travel to the Netherlands to fight charges of genocide against her country at the International Court of Justice.

Ms Suu Kyi’s reputation overseas has sunk to its lowest ebb over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims, but the Nobel Peace Prize laureate enjoys overwhelming support at home, where her image is undented by accusations of complicity in atrocities.

On Sunday, several hundred people gathered in downtown Yangon for the third in a series of rallies organised by supporters since the announcement was made that she would personally fight the charges.

“Aung San Suu Kyi is the bravest leader in the world,” Saw Phoe Kwar, a reggae singer known for his hits ‘Love Each Other’ and ‘Stop the Hate’, told the crowds.

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“We must show our unity,” said protest organiser Aung Thu. “If a country’s leader says a lemon is sweet, we have to say it is sweet.”

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since a 2017 crackdown by Myanmar’s military, which UN investigators say was carried out with “genocidal intent”.

Buddhist majority Myanmar denies genocide, saying the army was fighting militants who attacked security posts.

Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African state that has the backing of the 57-nation Organisation for Islamic Co-operation (OIC), lodged a lawsuit last month against Myanmar for genocide, including mass murder and rape.

Ms Suu Kyi’s office said she would fly to The Hague for the first hearings, from December 10, to “defend the national interest of Myanmar”.

Recent days have brought a revival of a previous viral Facebook campaign, with users changing their profile pictures to images of the state counsellor in support of Ms Suu Kyi.

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