In her 30-minute speech at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on December 11, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi defended the country's military against charges of genocide, without once directly using the word 'Rohingya' to describe the persecuted minority, reports Al Jazeera.
Filed by The Gambia, the case accuses Myanmar of committing genocide and violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as regards the bloody crackdown in 2017 in which thousands of Rohingya were abused, displaced and killed.
Aung San Suu Kyi denied any 'genocidal intent' on the part of the military, according to the recent Al Jazeera report,
Promising that civilians and members of the military who attacked innocent people would be prosecuted, she only went as far as to call the 2017 crackdown an 'internal conflict'.
Myanmar's military was responding to attacks by armed local groups such as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), Suu Kyi said.
But the one word missing in her entire 3,379-word speech was 'Rohingya'— the name of the ethnic group that has been persecuted for years and denied citizenship rights in Myanmar.
Suu Kyi only referred to the Rohingya as Muslims, people, civilians and members of Rakhine communities.
She did, however, say 'Rohingya' in reference to the insurgent group ARSA.
Critics have termed this refusal as yet another one of Myanmar's attempts to strip the group of their rights.
"It's routine for the Rohingya to be called Bengalis, and even to be described as Kalars, a slur referring to their darker complexion, to deny that they are native to Rakhine," Journalist Kaamil Ahmed, who is writing a book on the Rohingya, told the news media Al Jazeera.
"It's all part of denying that they are native, that they have historical links to the land they live on," he added.
Rohingya activist and cofounder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, Ro Nya San, said, "She has called us Rohingya in the past, until before the 2015 elections."
"Refusing to call us Rohingya is also a part of the genocide. She failed to recognise our identity. Calling us Muslims is not right. It is a religious identity. In our country, Myanmar, ethnic identity is the most important. Religion is private belief. I would now call her a genocide denier. She has officially denied genocide. She has dismissed the genocide," the activist added.
The hearing ends on December 12 (Thursday) but the final judgement could take years to come.