Annan calls for urgent actions to improve Rakhine
The Annan Commission recommended a slew of measures to stem the recurring cycles of violence, poverty and radicalisation in Rakhine, which if unchecked could spiral into a bigger national security threat.
FORMER UN secretary general Kofi Annan on Thursday urged the government to take urgent actions on citizenship, freedom of movement and verification issues to ease tensions in Rakhine State, warning that failure to do so could lead to more violence and radicalisation among the Muslim minority population.
“Unless concerted action – led by the government and aided by all sectors of the government and society – is taken soon, we risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalisation, which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine State,” Annan, who chairs the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, said in a press briefing in Yangon.
The commission underscored the need to review the 1982 citizenship law, to accelerate citizenship verification process, and to clarify status of those whose citizenship application were denied.
The commission on Wednesday presented its final report that consisted almost 88 recommendations the Myanmar government can take to improve the situation in Rakhine, parts of which have been wracked by communal violence since 2012.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander in Chief of the Defence Services, told Annan on Wednesday that Bengalis must register with the process of verification as a necessary step in verifying citizenship.
He stressed that the process of verification must be in accordance with 1982 citizenship law.
The commission report said several government policies related to citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, documentation and the internally displaced and freedom of movement have affected “the Muslim population disproportionally.”
“The commission has put forward honest and constructive recommendations which we know will create debate,” Annan said.
“However, if adopted and implemented in the spirit in which they were conceived, I firmly believe that our recommendations, along with those of our interim report, can trace a path to lasting peace, development and respect for the rule of law in Rakhine State,” he added.
The commission’s recommendations have emphasised on economic and social development, citizenship, freedom of movement, issue of rights and access to justice.
“The situation on the ground could worsen if the government does not implement the recommendations,” said Annan.
He added that the responsibility for the implementations of the recommendations lies with the government, institutions and the people.
“We are advisory and we advised the recommendation. We will not force to implement the recommendations,” Annan said.
The commission urged the government to establish a “ministerial-level” appointment solely to coordinate the government policy on Rakhine State and ensure the effective implementation of the commission’s recommendations.
“The appointee should be supported by a permanent and well-staffed secretariat, which will be an integral part of the Central Committee on Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State and support its work,” Annan said.
The report is the outcome of over 150 consultations and meetings held by the Advisory Commission since its launch in September 2016.
The UN welcomed the release of the comprehensive report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and said it stands ready to support the government’s implementation of the recommendations for the betterment of all communities in the state.
“We look forward to reviewing the report’s recommendations. In the meantime, we would like to acknowledge again the significance of the government’s establishment of this commission and the importance of its mandate to analyse the situation of all communities in Rakhine State and draft recommendations toward conflict prevention, reconciliation, institution building, development and humanitarian services,” the UN statement said.
Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, said the commission has put its finger on a key issue when it focuses on formal and informal restrictions on freedom of movement and the cascading, highly damaging impact those have on human rights, ability to earn a living, and access to basic services.
He added, unless the Myanmar government can break the lock that Rakhine extremists and corrupt officials have on whether people can move for economic and social purposes, many of the other reforms will likely fail.
“The commission’s straightforward approach to the thorny issues of statelessness, ethnicity and vulnerability to rights abuses is really about making the best of a very bad situation. The Myanmar government has promised to faithfully implement the recommendations of the commission and this will be the key test of that commitment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said they welcome the recommendations made by the commission, but we are concerned whether the Nld-led government will actually implement them, and call on the international community to ensure that the recommendations are implemented as quickly as possible.
“At the top of the government’s agenda should be the revising of the 1982 Citizenship Law in line with “international standards and treaties to ensure full and unimpeded humanitarian access… to all communities in Rakhine State,” said the statement.