Section 311B stipulates: (1) Whoever commits the offence of genocide under section (a) of section 311A shall be punished with death and shall also be liable to fine. (2) Whoever commits the offence of genocide under subsection (b), (c), (d) or (e) of Section 311A, shall be punished with imprisonment for life.
Two months before enacting the law, the military regime on 24 June 2021 formed a new eight-member legal panel led by its foreign minister to present the defence in the Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague.
The list of crimes in the case included offences like forced eviction, mass rapes, burning their homes, killing men, women and children etc. On 23 January 2020, the ICJ ordered Myanmar to report compliance with the provisional measures in four months and then every six months thereafter. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government submitted two reports prior to its ouster by the military coup on 1 February 2021.
It is widely considered in Myanmar that the law was enacted in the backdrop of a civil war looming large with National Unity Government’s (NUG) formal call on 7 September 2021 upon “the people, People’s Defence Force and ethnic armed organisations to revolt against Min Aung Hlaing’s military council”
Kyi Myint, a veteran Myanmar lawyer, said that the motive behind enacting the genocide law may be to deceive the international community. The law may be deposited to the ICJ as testimony to have enacted the law in pursuant to ICJ’s order “to implement vital measures to protect its Rohingya population from any further atrocities” and preventing such crimes from happening in future. The law is quite dubious as far as Rohingya is concerned.
The genocide law is intended to protect ‘a national, ethnical, racial or religious group’ in Myanmar. Military drafted Citizenship Law 1982 recognises Rohingya neither as a national nor an ethnicity nor a race of Myanmar. Even they are not regarded as a (Muslim) religious group of Myanmar. Therefore, Rohingyas remain vulnerable to atrocity crimes in future. The ICJ will certainly take note of the regime’s trick with the genocide law. Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer representing Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint, said “there was no chance that the new law would be used to prosecute members of the military for their crimes.”
It is widely considered in Myanmar that the law was enacted in the backdrop of a civil war looming large with National Unity Government’s (NUG) formal call on 7 September 2021 upon “the people, People’s Defence Force and ethnic armed organisations to revolt against Min Aung Hlaing’s military council”. In a seven minute pre-recorded video speech NUG’s acting President said, “With the responsibility to protect the life and properties of the people, the National Unity Government … launched a people’s defensive war against the military junta …. As this is a public revolution, all the citizens within entire Myanmar, revolt against the rule of the military.” He urged the NUG’s People’s Defence Force (PDF) to target “every pillar of the junta’s ruling mechanism.”
Coincidentally, in Monywa District of Sagaing Region unidentified attackers blew off eleven telecom towers belonging military backed ‘Mytel’ company the same day of the declaration of ‘resistance war’.
It is also believed that the law was enacted to protect military regime’s troops and their kith and kin and the regime’s supporters against an impending civil war. NUG’s Justice Minister suspects that “the regime intends to use the new genocide law against armed resistance groups carrying out guerilla attacks against junta targets”.
Referring to military-backed groups formed to counter anti-coup activists and resistance fighters he opined that “If relatives of military personnel and Pyu Saw Htee groups are attacked or massacred, the regime will accuse the offenders of committing genocidal offences”.
Military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said that the military regime enacted the law because it was its duty to do so under the Genocide Convention, which Myanmar signed in 1949. “As we are a member country, we have a responsibility to enact a law. So we have enacted a law to prevent and punish genocide”.
Anyway, the purpose of enacting the genocide law and its use and abuse will be evident as ‘resistance war’ gains momentum.
* Mohammad Abdur Razzak is a security analyst and retired Commodore of Bangladesh Navy. He can be reached at [email protected]