In December 2019, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accused the Myanmar government of genocide against Rohingya Muslims. Represented by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar authorities denied such accusations. To understand how a political leader can deny ingroup wrongdoings, we unpacked Suu Kyi’s ICJ speech and analyzed her defensive rhetorical style through critical narrative analysis. We aimed to identify and describe the denial strategies Suu Kyi used as well as how she maintained a positive ingroup image to support her position. Our findings showed that Suu Kyi engaged in interpretative denial of genocide by arguing that genocide cannot occur when there is armed conflict, that there were victims and perpetrators on both sides, and that misconducts by law enforcement had been addressed. To maintain the ingroup’s positive image, she portrayed Myanmar as moral by emphasizing the government’s knowledge of ethical standards and laws, as well as their support for peace and justice. By examining political discourse used by a national leader internationally renowned for supporting human rights, our findings shed light on the dynamic, constructive nature of denial. Theoretical and applied contributions to understanding denial of ingroup wrongdoing are discussed.
Putra, I. E., Selvanathan, H. P., Mashuri, A., & Montiel, C. J. (2021). Aung San Suu Kyi’s defensive denial of the rohingya massacre: A rhetorical analysis of denial and positive-image construction. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 9(2), 353–369. https://doi.org/10.5964/jspp.7301