Do war crimes pay?

According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration will support a U.N. commission of inquiry into the Burmese junta’s war crimes. The administration hopes that the probe would be a way to discredit Than Shwe and encourage younger officers to oust him (for more on Than Shwe, check out Benedict Rogers’ upcoming biography).
Will it work? Well, let’s recall our old “friend,” Omar-al Bashir. A while ago, I wrote about how the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for President Bashir might expose the impotence of the international criminal system. I recall people who knew Sudan well making the same arguments about Sudan’s ruling party that Burma activists are now making about the tatmadaw – namely, that the elites care too much about their survival to let the head honcho drag them down. However, (as the comic from Pazambuka News below shows), Bashir remains at large and, if anything, Sudan seems to have fallen from the international radar screen.

Oddly enough, so far I haven’t seen anybody mention Bashir in the context of the proposed Burma commission of inquiry. In fact, it’s not clear what form the commission of inquiry would take (it seems separate and distinct from the ICC, which in itself is an odd choice). However, the parallels are striking and suggest that a commission of inquiry without other forms of political pressure will do little to resolve Burma’s political impasse. If anything, it might worry younger officers, who probably also have dirtied their hands while rising through the ranks…

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