Thousands in Myanmar rally behind Suu Kyi ahead of Hague court date

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on November 28, 2019, a woman on motorcycle rides past a huge billboard depicting Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Su Kyi with the three military ministers: L/R: border affairs minister Lieutenant General Ye Aung, defence minister Lieutenant General Sein Win and home affairs minister Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe with the background showing the building of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, displayed along a main road in Hpa-an, Karen State. – Former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is set to make legal history when she defends Myanmar in The Hague on December 11, 2019, against charges of genocide targeting the Buddhist state’s minority Rohingya Muslims. The tiny west African state of Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, will ask the International Court of Justice to take emergency measures to halt Myanmar’s “ongoing genocidal actions”. (Photo by – / AFP)

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar (AFP) — Thousands rallied in support of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar Saturday, on the eve of her departure for the UN’s top court to defend Myanmar against charges of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

The raucous rally in the capital Naypyidaw came as China’s foreign minister arrived for a visit at Suu Kyi’s invitation.

Analysts say Beijing’s permanent seat on the UN Security Council — and its veto vote — makes it a valuable ally as Myanmar faces intensifying scrutiny over its treatment of the Rohingya.

Once-lauded democracy champion Suu Kyi’s shock decision to face the International Court of Justice (ICJ) next week to defend Myanmar against charges it committed genocide against the Muslim minority risks further damaging her already tattered overseas reputation.

But domestically “The Lady” remains revered, and the resolve of her supporters has only hardened in the lead-up to the ICJ hearing scheduled for December 10-12.

“We are proud of her taking accountability… by going to The Hague to protect the nation’s image,” shouted prominent writer Htin Lin Oo into a microphone in front of a banner emblazoned with the words “We stand with our leader”.

“Our blood shall come together and unite us when it is important,” he shouted to a cheering crowd, who hoisted colorful artwork of Suu Kyi in the air.

The ICJ lawsuit was brought by Gambia, a tiny, mainly Muslim West African state that alleges Myanmar breached the UN’s Genocide Convention with its bloody 2017 crackdown on the Rohingya.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled into neighboring Bangladesh, bringing with them accounts of widespread murder, rape, and arson — violence that UN investigators have branded as genocide.

But the Rohingya garner little sympathy within Myanmar, with many believing that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Myanmar insists abuse allegations are under investigation by its own committees — panels which rights groups say have whitewashed the atrocities.

The military says the operations were justified to flush out Rohingya militants.

Win Swe, a Naypyidaw resident at the rally who was sporting a T-shirt with Suu Kyi’s face on it, told AFP he will support his leader in “whatever she does”.

“They aren’t just accusing one person in Myanmar, they are accusing the whole country,” he said.

© Agence France-Presse