Rakhine com­mis­sion gets to work in spite of na­tion­al­ists’ ob­jec­tions

The nine-mem­ber ad­vi­sory team on Rakhine State was of­fi­cially launched at the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­tre yes­ter­day with a pledge to up­hold “rig­or­ous im­par­tial­ity”, and a re­quest from the state coun­sel­lor that they help to “heal the wounds” c

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - PHOTO: NYAN ZAY HTET

AS the state coun­sel­lor launched a new ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion on Rakhine yes­ter­day, she ac­knowl­edged the govern­ment has not yet found “the right so­lu­tion” to ad­dress hu­man rights abuses and on­go­ing dis­place­ment in the restive state.

“We must try to rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said at the meet­ing with former UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Kofi An­nan, who will head the nine-mem­ber com­mis­sion.

She asked the com­mis­sion to un­der­take a “fair as­sess­ment of the Rakhine sit­u­a­tion”. “You [the com­mis­sion mem­bers] can as­sess for your­selves what the root of the prob­lem is,” she said.

“We will face the prob­lems no mat­ter what they are, and we are pre­pared to solve them with you,” she added.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s new govern­ment has been in­ter­na­tion­ally crit­i­cised for not tak­ing a stronger line on Rakhine State since as­sum­ing of­fice at the end of March, with the new com­mis­sion seen as a mea­sure to de­flect the re­proach.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs (UNOCHA), some 120,000 peo­ple re­main in squalid tem­po­rary dis­place­ment camps four years after deadly sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence erupted in the state. The ma­jor­ity of the dis­placed are self-iden­ti­fy­ing Mus­lim Ro­hingya who con­tinue to face se­vere re­stric­tions on their move­ment, with lim­ited ac­cess to health­care and ed­u­ca­tion.

“Mus­lims liv­ing in vil­lages and IDP camps in Rakhine face par­tic­u­lar fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­tics chal­lenges when it comes to ac­cess­ing health­care for se­ri­ous con­di­tions,” UNOCHA said in a June bulletin.

At yes­ter­day’s press brief­ing at the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­tre, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said re­solv­ing the con­flict in Rakhine State was in­her­ently linked to the peace process. She urged the com­mis­sion to help “heal the wounds” of the na­tion.

Com­mis­sion chair Kofi An­nan yes­ter­day pledged to work with “rig­or­ous im­par­tial­ity” in or­der to re­solve com­mu­nal ten­sions.

“I am con­fi­dent that we can work with the peo­ple of Rakhine to work to find a com­mon­al­ity and a peace­ful and pros­per­ous so­lu­tion,” he said.

How­ever, be­fore the com­mis­sion has even be­gun un­pack­ing the tin­der­box is­sue, the in­clu­sion of international ex­perts on the com­mis­sion, in­clud­ing Mr An­nan, a Ghana­ian; Ghas­san Salame, of Le­banon; and Nor­we­gian Laeti­tia van den As­sum, has al­ready trig­gered back­lash.

Rakhine na­tion­al­ists, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the state’s dom­i­nant po­lit­i­cal party, con­tend the ap­point­ment of for­eign­ers to ad­dresses a sen­si­tive in­ter­nal af­fair has put Myan­mar’s sovereignty at stake.

“The sovereignty of the na­tion be­longs to the peo­ple. This na­tion is theirs,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in re­sponse to the ob­jec­tions.

“There are those who think we are drag­ging an in­ter­nal prob­lem onto the international stage. It is noth­ing of that kind … Our prob­lem has been on the international stage for many years.”

The com­mis­sion mem­bers will head to Rakhine State for an ini­tial field visit to­day, but are ex­pected to be greeted by protest­ing Rakhine na­tion­al­ists. Par­lia­ment will also de­bate an ur­gent pro­posal sub­mit­ted by Rakhine politi­cians to abol­ish the com­mis­sion.

The ad­vi­sory team is set to meet with mem­bers of the Rakhine State govern­ment, com­mu­nity elders, and res­i­dents of both Rakhine and Ro­hingya IDP camps.

Rakhine com­mis­sion chair Kofi An­nan ar­rived in Yangon yes­ter­day where he met with State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Photo: Nyan Zay Htet

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (right) and former UN chief Kofi An­nan of­fi­cially launched a Rakhine State ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion yes­ter­day.

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