Govt says Richard­son pur­su­ing own agenda

Myan­mar has de­cided not to fur­ther in­volve vet­eran US politi­cian Bill Richard­son from the 10-mem­ber Rakhine ad­vi­sory team, say­ing it is in the best in­ter­ests of all con­cerned.

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Front Page - EI EI TOE LWIN eieitoel­win@mm­times.com

FOR­MER New Mex­ico gover­nor Bill Richard­son on Thurs­day an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion from a board ad­vis­ing the gov­ern­ment on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of projects and poli­cies to ad­dress the north­ern Rakhine cri­sis, but Myan­mar is not los­ing sleep over it and ac­cuse the vet­eran US politi­cian of pur­su­ing his own agenda.

The Myan­mar State Coun­sel­lor’s Of­fice said in a state­ment that Richard­son was pur­su­ing his own agenda and had ex­ceeded the man­date of the Ad­vi­sory Board on Rakhine State.

The state­ment said that dur­ing the ini­tial two-day meet­ing of the 10-mem­ber body that started on Mon­day, “it be­came ev­i­dent that the in­tent of Gover­nor Bill Richard­son…was not to pro­vide ad­vice based on the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Rakhine State chaired by Dr Kofi An­nan but to pur­sue his own agenda.”

“The gov­ern­ment de­cided that his con­tin­ued par­tic­i­pa­tion on the board would not be in the best in­ter­est of all con­cerned,” the state­ment said.

In his state­ment re­leased ear­lier in the day, Richard­son flayed Myan­mar leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for lack of moral lead­er­ship in han­dling the Rakhine cri­sis.

Richard­son said that while he recog­nised the fact that the mil­i­tary still wields sig­nif­i­cant power in the coun­try, “the ab­sence of Daw Suu’s moral lead­er­ship on this crit­i­cal is­sue is of great con­cern.”

Richard­son was one of the five in­ter­na­tional ex­perts in the 10-mem­ber Ad­vi­sory Board on Rakhine State that was to help the gov­ern­ment im­ple­ment projects that will pro­vide last­ing so­lu­tions to the cri­sis.

“It ap­pears that the board is likely to be­come a cheer­lead­ing squad for gov­ern­ment pol­icy as op­posed to propos­ing gen­uine pol­icy changes that are des­per­ately needed to as­sure peace, sta­bil­ity and de­vel­op­ment in Rakhine State,” he said.

The ad­vi­sory body was or­ga­nized in De­cem­ber by Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw to pro­vide sug­ges­tions to the com­mit­tee tasked to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Kofi An­nan-led com­mis­sion in mid-2017 after in­ves­ti­gat­ing the trou­bles in north­ern Rakhine in late 2016.

On Au­gust 25 last year, a new round of vi­o­lence en­gulfed the area after fight­ers of the Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army (ARSA), which the gov­ern­ment clas­si­fies as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion, launched si- mul­ta­ne­ous at­tacks on gov­ern­ment out­posts that killed sev­eral se­cu­rity forces.

Sub­se­quent re­tal­i­a­tion by the Tat­madaw – the coun­try’s armed forces – caused over 650,000 mostly Mus­lim res­i­dents to flee to neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh to es­cape the vi­o­lence.

Richard­son said he was “ex­tremely up­set” at the “fu­ri­ous” re­ac­tion by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to his re­quest “to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion of the two Reuters jour­nal­ists both swiftly and fairly.”

The two jour­nal­ists – Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo – are un­der ar­rest after they were caught in pos­ses­sion of clas­si­fied doc­u­ments and face trial on the charge of vi­o­lat­ing the coun­try’s colo­nial-era Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act. The duo could face up to 14 years in jail if con­victed.

Richard­son also said that dur­ing the ini­tial meet­ing of the ad­vi­sory board with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, “I was taken aback by the vigor with which the me­dia, the United Na­tions, hu­man rights groups and in gen­eral the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity were dis­par­aged.”

He was also dis­mayed at the con­duct of board chair Su­rakiart Sathi­rathai, a for­mer Thai for­eign min­is­ter, who “par­roted the dan­ger­ous and un­true no­tion that in­ter­na­tional NGOS em­ploy rad­i­cals and that hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies are pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial sup­port to ARSA.”

“Su­rakiart’s gen­eral de­sire to avoid the real is­sues at the risk of con­fronting our Myan­mar hosts, lead to an agenda de­void of any mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment with the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties in Rakhine, whose peo­ple the Ad­vi­sory Board is meant to serve,” Richard­son said.

Bill Richard­son dur­ing an in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day. Photo: AP

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