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