Kofi Annan to visit Myanmar: state official
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.
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.