Kofi An­nan to visit Myan­mar: state of­fi­cial

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

For­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Kofi An­nan, who has been ap­pointed to lead a com­mis­sion on Rakhine, will visit Myan­mar next week.

FOR­MER UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Kofi An­nan, who was picked last week to chair the newly cre­ated Rakhine State ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion, will pay a visit to Myan­mar within the next week, ac­cord­ing to a Rakhine State gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial.

“It may be on Septem­ber 6 but a fixed date for when he will come here is un­sure,” U Tin Maung Swe, sec­re­tary of the Rakhine State gov­ern­ment, told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day.

On Au­gust 24, the Of­fice of the State Coun­sel­lor re­leased a state­ment ap­point­ing Mr An­nan to lead the nine-mem­ber Rakhine State ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion, which has been tasked with find­ing con­flict­pre­ven­tion mea­sures; en­sur­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, rights and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion; establishing ba­sic in­fras­truc­ture; and pro­mot­ing de­vel­op­ment long-term plans.

Rakhine State was rocked by two bouts of deadly vi­o­lence that pit­ted Bud­dhists against Mus­lims in 2012, dis­plac­ing more than 100,000 peo­ple, and leav­ing a legacy of mis­trust and worse be­tween the two faith com­mu­ni­ties that lingers to this day.

The ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion has been given one year to con­duct re­search and sub­mit a re­port on its find­ings.

U Zaw Htay, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral for the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, con­firmed that plans were in the works for the for­mer UN chief to visit, but said dates and a de­tailed itin­er­ary had yet to be pinned down.

While Mr An­nan’s visit will likely be in­ter­preted as sig­nalling his con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment’s ap­proach to Rakhine State’s thorny is­sues, his trip will not be with­out ten­sion. One day af­ter the ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion’s for­ma­tion was an­nounced, the Arakan Na­tional Party re­leased a state­ment that called for “abol­ish­ing the com­mis­sion led by Kofi An­nan”.

The party con­tended that the in­clu­sion of three for­eign­ers on the com­mis­sion – Mr An­nan, Ghas­san Salame and Laeti­tia van den As­sum – threat­ened Myan­mar’s sovereignty, bring­ing un­due in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence over an in­ter­nal af­fair.

Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists from out­side the party quickly fol­lowed suit in op­po­si­tion to the ad­vi­sory body’s com­po­si­tion.

U Tun Aung Kyaw, sec­re­tary of the ANP, said he had heard about Mr An­nan’s visit to Rakhine State, and that the for­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral planned to meet with both Bud­dhist and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties there.

While he could not say for cer­tain whether the ANP lead­er­ship would be able to meet with Mr An­nan, U Tun Aung Kyaw said the party is open to it.

“Even though we asked to abol­ish the ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion, we are will­ing to meet him ... be­cause we want to ex­plain the Rakhine com­mu­nity’s feel­ings and its his­tory to him, which he needs to un­der­stand,” said U Tun Aung Kyaw.

U Soe Lin Han, a spokesper­son for the Ministry of For­eign Af­fairs, said plan­ning for Mr An­nan’s visit was be­ing han­dled by the ministry’s In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tions and Eco­nomic Depart­ment. He de­clined to of­fer ad­di­tional de­tails, say­ing he was not the right per­son to han­dle press in­quiries about the trip.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, law­mak­ers in the Pyithu Hlut­taw are sched­uled to de­bate an ANP pro­posal to­day that calls for re­mov­ing for­eign­ers from the Rakhine State ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion and re­plac­ing them with Myan­mar na­tion­als.

Photo: EPA

For­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Kofi An­nan (left) is set to visit Myan­mar next week, shortly af­ter he was tipped to chair an ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion on Rakhine State.

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