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January 19, 2020

Avoid hate narratives to prevent mistrust among diverse communities

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in her closing statement at the International Court of Justice, said leaders of states and relevant inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations should be aware of their responsibility to express and affirm fundamental values.
“Feeding the flames of an extreme polarization in the context of Rakhine, for example, can harm the values of peace and harmony in Myanmar. Aggravating the wounds of conflict can undermine unity in Rakhine. Hate narratives are not simply confined to hate speech – language that contributes to extreme polarization also amounts to hate narrative,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 12 December at the ICJ, at the Hague.
Hate narratives from outside the country have driven the two communities in Rakhine State further apart. Now is the time for international communities and the media to focus on how to resolve the issue with a forward-looking approach.
Hate narratives which are not based on hard evidence will only serve to inflame tensions further and potentially hinder the Government’s efforts to create much-needed social cohesion in Rakhine State.
On the Internet, truth is not optimized. On the Web, it’s not enough to battle falsehood with truth; the truth doesn’t always win.
The government is also looking for long-term solutions to the Rakhine problem. The mistrust between the two communities has existed for a long time. The incidents in 2012 deteriorated the situation, and the terrorist attacks by the ARSA terrorist group in 2016 and 2017 further worsened the problem.
People do not dare to commute in Rakhine State due to lack of security, not because of lack of freedom of movement. Hate narratives do not pull the trigger, but does anyone seriously doubt that they create a climate where such acts are more likely?
Hate narratives are less violent, but damaging in their impact in another way: They diminish and undermine the globally common value of tolerance. They enable discrimination. Steps that generate suspicion, sow doubts, or create resentment among communities that have just begun to build a fragile foundation of trust could undermine reconciliation.
Everyone concerned must be positive and committed to the process of reestablishing trust and confidence because fear and hate have taken root in Rakhine, a region where there is very little prosperity and very little security. We hope that the decision of the ICJ judges, with the wisdom and vision of justice, will help Myanmar to create unity out of our diversity, develop the potential of our people, and meet the challenges of a nation in quest of sustainable peace and development.

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