Interference is duty

When injustice becomes law, opposition is a duty.

The responsibility this statement places on you is indeed inconvenient. However, you will probably agree, that doing nothing is not acceptable. When injustice becomes law, complacency makes you an accomplice.

In cases of child abuse, it is never only the abusing parent and the non-intervening spouse that are on trial. It is the whole community that is on trial. It is the teacher, the local minimart, the postman and in particular the neighbors. Did you not hear the child scream? Did you not see the bruises?

“We adhere to the principle of non-interference,” the neighbors try to excuse themselves. It means: Yes! I heard the screams. But it was not my child. Maybe the child needed to be punished? And what if the authorities did not succeed in intervening? Maybe my neighbor would report my illegal extension of my house as well!”

In ASEAN, the principle of non-interference is fine in small matters, but when the Burmese army stages a coup and starts killing the people, whose future the army is stealing, plunging them back to the dark ages under military dictatorship which their country has barely come out from, then inactivity makes you an accomplice. When atrocities are committed, interference is duty.

Did you not hear the screams? Did you not see the corpses?

“I was busy at home” is a hollow answer. Especially when some of the neighbors seemed eager to see the criminals over for tea while the gang was still in the middle of their crime.

Well, the final word is not said in this matter and it seems day by day more likely, that the people of Myanmar will be able to re-establish their democracy. At that point, there will be trials against the policemen and soldiers for their atrocities.

Since the Nuremberg trials after the WWII, it has been a well-established legal principle that “I was just following orders” is not an acceptable excuse. Soldiers, policemen and civilians should disobey orders when those orders are morally impermissible. The authorization for massacres, abuse, and dehumanization of those victimized may come from military and civilian leaders, but if front-line soldiers choose to commit and produce these atrocities, they are guilty.

“Why are you looking at me? I didn’t do anything,” the neighbors say when the child abusers are finally exposed and go on trial. That is exactly why we point fingers at you. You heard the screams. You saw the bruises. You deliberately didn’t do anything – and that is your crime!

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