Dr Andrew Selth
It has long been argued that Myanmar's armed forces, or Tatmadaw, should be held legally accountable for a wide range of offenses against the Myanmar population.
These concerns were highlighted in 2016 and 2017, after the armed forces and national police launched "area clearance operations" against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Rakhine State. More than 700,000 refugees were driven into Bangladesh, prompting renewed calls for Myanmar to be brought before an international court, charged with crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing and genocide.
Should this matter ever come before an international tribunal, several issues would need to be considered. Most relate directly to the atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingyas. However, the court would also need to consider the Tatmadaw's organization and structure, its training and ethos, and-most importantly-command and control issues.
The Tatmadaw's latest campaign against the Rohingyas has been a disaster for everyone. The Rohingyas have suffered most, but Aung San Suu Kyi, her government, the security forces, and the people of Myanmar have all lost, in different ways. Despite the high hopes that followed the 2015 elections, the country has stepped back into its dark past. This poses real challenges for the international community.
Drawing on his recent report for the United States Institute of Peace, Dr Selth argues that unless attitudes inside Myanmar shift significantly, a fair and durable solution to the Rohingya question, let alone a full, public and legal accounting for past events, will remain a distant prospect.
Dr Andrew Selth is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute. He has been studying international security issues and Asian affairs for 45 years, as a diplomat, strategic intelligence analyst and research scholar. During this time, he has been an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University (ANU), a Visiting Fellow at the ANU's Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, a Chevening Scholar at St Antony's College, Oxford University, an Australian Research Council Fellow at Griffith University and a Harold White Fellow at the National Library of Australia. Dr Selth has published six books and more than 50 peer-reviewed works, most of them about Myanmar (Burma) and related subjects. He has also contributed to the public debate on Myanmar through articles in newspapers, magazines and various online fora, notably the Lowy Institute's Interpreter and the ANU's New Mandala blogs.
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