Burmese snap up tours to The Hague court to give Aung San Suu Kyi support


Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi

YANGON, Nov 30 (AFP) — Ardent fans of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi are snapping up spots on US$2,000 tours to The Hague, in a display of moral support as Myanmar faces charges of genocide over the Rohingya crisis at the UN's top court in December.

Supporter rallies, billboards and outpourings of praise online followed the shock announcement by the country's civilian leader last week that she would personally represent Myanmar at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The once-lauded democracy champion will be defending the 2017 military crackdown against the Rohingya minority.

One travel operator is organising a five-day tour to The Hague that includes visa and transportation as part of a $2,150 package, said employee Ma July, a prohibitive rate for most in the developing nation.

Social influencer Pencilo and well-known TV presenter Mg Mg Aye are among the 20 or so people to have already signed up.

"I believe this is our duty as citizens," Pencilo, 29, told AFP Friday, urging any of her 1.1 million Facebook followers who have the means to do the same.

"It's important the world knows her compatriots are fully behind her."

West African nation The Gambia will open its case at the ICJ on December 10 on behalf of the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The mainly Muslim country alleges Myanmar breached the UN's Genocide Convention through bloody "clearance operations" against its Rohingya community two years ago.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled into sprawling camps in Bangladesh, bringing with them accounts of widespread murder, rape and arson, violence UN investigators branded as genocide.

The crisis has left Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's reputation in the West in tatters. The UN team accused her of complicity, although allies China, India, Russia and Japan have been largely silent on the issue.

But she remains highly revered in Myanmar where there is little sympathy for the Muslim minority, who are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

At the December hearings, the ICJ is expected to rule on interim measures in order to prevent further genocide and the destruction of any evidence.

Myanmar says the crackdown was justified to root out Rohingya militants and insists its own committees are investigating abuse allegations, although rights groups dismiss them as an effort to whitewash atrocities.

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