Ac­tivists re­ject Rakhine body

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A new body set up by Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of rights abuses against Ro­hingya in Rakhine lacks cred­i­bil­ity, ac­tivists said yes­ter­day, as for­mer UN chief Kofi An­nan be­gan a visit to the trou­bled state. Myan­mar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has faced a grow­ing in­ter­na­tional back­lash for fail­ing to probe claims the army is car­ry­ing out eth­nic cleans­ing of the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity. But rights groups re­jected the new 13-mem­ber com­mis­sion as tooth­less, not­ing it in­cludes no Mus­lims and is led by Vice Pres­i­dent Myint Swe, a re­tired army gen­eral for­merly black­listed by the United States.

A close ally of for­mer junta leader Than Shwe, Myint Swe was head of spe­cial op­er­a­tions in Yan­gon when the mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment or­dered a bloody crack­down on the monk-led protests of the Saffron Rev­o­lu­tion in 2007. “We’ve got lit­tle faith in an­other home­grown com­mis­sion, par­tic­u­larly if it’s headed by a mil­i­tary man,” said Matthew Smith, chief ex­ec­u­tive of For­tify Rights. “This new com­mis­sion won’t be ca­pable of con­duct­ing a cred­i­ble hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and it cer­tainly lacks in­de­pen­dence. The time for an in­de­pen­dent in­ter­na­tional in­ves­ti­ga­tion is now.”

Phil Robert­son, deputy di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch in Asia, said the new com­mis­sion “doesn’t look like it’s in­de­pen­dent or im­par­tial”. Suu Kyi’s of­fice said the new com­mis­sion would in­ves­ti­gate the raids on po­lice border posts on Oc­to­ber 9 that sparked the deadly mil­i­tary lock­down as well as “in­ter­na­tional ac­cu­sa­tions” of army abuses. It is the sec­ond body cre­ated by Suu Kyi to try to heal the re­li­gious di­vide that has split Rakhine state since deadly sec­tar­ian un­rest killed more than 100 peo­ple in 2012.

In Au­gust she ap­pointed fel­low No­bel lau­re­ate An­nan to head a sep­a­rate body, which Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists have bit­terly de­nounced as for­eign med­dling. Oo Hla Saw, a se­nior politi­cian from the Arakan Na­tional Party, said “the new com­mis­sion will do noth­ing dif­fer­ent”. “I don’t have much hope for it,” he told AFP. Pri­vately some Mus­lim lead­ers in Myan­mar also said they were con­cerned their voices would not be rep­re­sented, but asked not to be quoted for fear of reprisals.

More than 10,000 Ro­hingya have fled to Bangladesh in re­cent weeks, the United Na­tions said on Wed­nes­day, flee­ing a bloody army crack­down in the north of Rakhine state. Ar­rivals in Bangladesh have told AFP hor­ri­fy­ing sto­ries of gang rape, tor­ture and mur­der at the hands of Myan­mar’s se­cu­rity forces. Myan­mar has de­nied al­le­ga­tions of abuse, but has also banned for­eign jour­nal­ists and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors from ac­cess­ing the area.

On Fri­day, for­mer UN chief An­nan was greeted by pro­test­ers hold­ing signs read­ing “Ban the Kofi An­nan com­mis­sion” as he touched down in Sit­twe air­port on his first trip to Rakhine since the cri­sis erupted. Com­mis­sion mem­ber Aye Lwin told AFP the trip was for “gather­ing facts... we won’t be giv­ing any con­clu­sion”. — AFP

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