Pyithu Hlut­taw to de­bate for­eign­ers’ in­clu­sion on Rakhine com­mis­sion fol­low­ing MP’s mo­tion

The Myanmar Times - - News - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­ – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

AN Arakan Na­tional Party law­maker has for­mally ob­jected to the in­clu­sion of for­eign­ers on a re­cently cre­ated ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion for Rakhine State, sub­mit­ting an ur­gent pro­posal to the Pyithu Hlut­taw rec­om­mend­ing that the body be com­prised of only lo­cal ex­perts.

The pro­posal of U Aung Kyaw Zan (ANP; Pauk­taw) was in re­sponse to the govern­ment’s Au­gust 24 an­nounce­ment of the cre­ation of the com­mis­sion, which has been tasked with is­su­ing a re­port de­tail­ing long-term plans to ad­dress Rakhine State’s trou­bled in­ter­re­li­gious dy­nam­ics.

The nine-mem­ber com­mis­sion is made up of six lo­cal ex­perts and three in­ter­na­tional ex­perts in­clud­ing the com­mis­sion chair, former UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Kofi An­nan. Its broad man­date in­cludes find­ing pre­ven­tive mea­sures for con­flicts; en­sur­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, rights and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion; es­tab­lish­ing ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture; and pro­mot­ing de­vel­op­ment plans in Rakhine State.

“It [en­list­ing in­ter­na­tional ex­perts] is a kind of spark­ing of a new quar­rel while the coun­try is fac­ing other chal­lenges. It is ask­ing for help from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity for our own prob­lem,” U Aung Kyaw Zan said yes­ter­day.

“His sug­ges­tions could have in­flu­ence on not only the UN but also other in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions. The sit­u­a­tion might go from bad to worse even though [the com­mis­sion] is try­ing to make things bet­ter,” he said.

The ANP par­lia­men­tar­ian said the find­ings of a re­port from an ear­lier com­mis­sion for Rakhine State, formed in 2013 fol­low­ing in­ter­re­li­gious vi­o­lence a year ear­lier, should in­stead be im­ple­mented, de­scrib­ing that re­port as fair, sup­port­ive of re­gional de­vel­op­ment and favoured by the pub­lic. The pre­vi­ous govern­ment had de­layed in im­ple­ment­ing those rec­om­men­da­tions and thus sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments to the sit­u­a­tion in Rakhine State could not be seen, he added.

Pyithu Hlyt­taw MP U Aung Thaung Shwe (ANP; Buthi­daung) sec­onded the pro­posal. With no law­mak­ers ob­ject­ing to a dis­cus­sion, Pyithu Hlut­taw Speaker U Win Myint (NLD; Tarmwe) moved to ac­cept the pro­posal for de­bate. MPs want­ing to de­lib­er­ate the mat­ter must reg­is­ter by tomorrow.

Law­maker U Pe Than (ANP; Mye­bon) echoed his col­league’s crit­i­cism of the ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion.

U Pe Than raised the pos­si­bil­ity that Mr An­nan might side with Western gov­ern­ments in urg­ing Myan­mar to al­low self-in­den­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims to re­fer to them­selves as they pre­fer.

The name is­sue has be­dev­illed the Na­tional League for Democ­racy ad­min­is­tra­tion since it took of­fice. The party’s pre­de­ces­sor, like much of the coun­try, refers to self-iden­ti­fy­ing Ro­hingya as “Ben­galis”, im­ply­ing that they are il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh. State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ear­lier this year said both terms were “emo­tive” and to be avoided, sug­gest­ing in­stead that the group be re­ferred to as “the Mus­lim com­mu­nity in Rakhine State”.

Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral U Zaw Htay told The Myan­mar Times this week that Mr An­nan and the com­mis­sion’s two other for­eign­ers, Ghas­san Salame and Laeti­tia van den As­sum, were in­cluded due to grow­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure over hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cerns in Rakhine State.

“The Rakhine is­sue is sen­si­tive and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is in­ter­ested in it. That’s why we are tak­ing into ac­count the role of the in­ter­na­tional ex­perts,” he said.

Ex­clu­sion of for­eign­ers from the Rakhine State ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion has be­come the lat­est ral­ly­ing cry for a Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ist move­ment strug­gling to re­gain its foot­ing af­ter its stan­dard-bearer, the Com­mit­tee for the Pro­tec­tion of Race and Re­li­gion, or Ma Ba Tha, was pub­licly re­buked by the state’s lead­ing Bud­dhist au­thor­ity in July.

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