They must be moved back as a sign of good­will, says panel

New Straits Times - - World -

MYAN­MAR should im­me­di­ately start al­low­ing the Ro­hingya to re­turn home and ul­ti­mately close run-down camps for the dis­placed in Rakhine State, a panel led by for­mer United Na­tions chief Kofi An­nan said yesterday.

More than 120,000 peo­ple, mostly Ro­hingya, have been liv­ing in what were in­tended as tem­po­rary shel­ters for in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDPs) since bouts of com­mu­nal vi­o­lence roiled the state in 2012.

“We don’t be­lieve that the IDP camps are a nat­u­ral state of things,” panel mem­ber Ghas­san Salame said here.

Some peo­ple were stuck in camps me­tres from their for­mer homes al­most five years af­ter be­ing forced to move, he said.

Hun­dreds of dis­placed peo­ple, whose re­turn home would be fea­si­ble and safe, should be moved back “im­me­di­ately, as a first step and sign of good­will”, the panel said.

An­nan was not present, but spoke briefly by video link.

The gov­ern­ment had seen the panel’s rec­om­men­da­tions and was plan­ning to is­sue a re­sponse, said Aye Aye Soe, a se­nior of­fi­cial in the For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry.

The panel urged the gov­ern­ment of Aung San Suu Kyi to re­con­sider a failed pro­gramme to ver­ify Ro­hingya for Myan­mar cit­i­zen­ship, and to be­gin map­ping the re­stric­tions on move­ment of Ro­hingya in Rakhine.

Res­i­dents com­plain of a sys­tem of check­points in parts of the state and wide­spread ex­tor­tion by of­fi­cials at road­blocks.

Months af­ter tak­ing power last year amid a tran­si­tion from decades of mil­i­tary rule, Suu Kyi ap­pointed An­nan in Au­gust to lead the ad­vi­sory commission.

The nine-mem­ber panel was asked to pro­pose so­lu­tions to the Rakhine State prob­lems within a year, but put for­ward in­terim rec­om­men­da­tions yesterday that will test her com­mit­ment, ques­tioned by many abroad, to im­prove con­di­tions for Ro­hingya.

The work of the six Myan­mar and three in­ter­na­tional com­mis­sion­ers was made more chal­leng­ing in the early hours of Oct 9, when armed Ro­hingya men launched co­or­di­nated at­tacks on bor­der guard posts, killing nine po­lice and seiz­ing weapons and am­mu­ni­tion.

The commission called for an “in­de­pen­dent and im­par­tial” in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a sub­se­quent crack­down by se­cu­rity forces in the north­ern part of Rakhine, but stopped short of back­ing calls for a full UN-led commission of in­quiry.

About 1.1 mil­lion Ro­hingya are de­nied cit­i­zen­ship in Myan­mar, with their move­ment and ac­cess to ser­vices re­stricted. Many view them as un­wanted im­mi­grants from Bangladesh.

The gov­ern­ment must restart reg­is­tra­tion of Mus­lim births in Rakhine, al­most com­pletely halted since 2012, the panel said.

“It is not nat­u­ral in any coun­try of the world that a new­born baby does not have a birth cer­tifi­cate,” Salame said. Reuters

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