Anti-for­eigner mo­tion on Rakhine ad­vi­sory body de­feated

The Myanmar Times - - News - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­ – Trans­la­tion by San Lay, Thiri Min Htun and Zar Zar Soe

THE Pyithu Hlut­taw yes­ter­day voted down an ur­gent pro­posal seek­ing the re­moval of three for­eign­ers from a re­cently formed Rakhine State ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion that has pro­voked the ire of na­tion­al­ists. The failed mo­tion came the same day com­mis­sion mem­bers in­cluded for­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral and Ghana­ian Kofi An­nan trav­elled to state cap­i­tal Sittwe for an ini­tial foray into the Rakhine’s thorny po­lit­i­cal arena.

A to­tal of 34 law­mak­ers de­bated the pro­posal, with those in favour hew­ing to a gen­eral ar­gu­ment that Rakhine State’s is­sues were an in­ter­nal af­fair, while those against said there was a clear in­ter­na­tional com­po­nent to the bor­der state’s woes.

Daw Ni Ni May Myi (NLD; Taung­gok) spoke against the pro­posal, point­ing to a “boat-peo­ple” cri­sis last year in­volv­ing Myan­mar, Bangladesh and a hand­ful of other ASEAN na­tions as proof of the in­ter­na­tional di­men­sions to the prob­lems of Rakhine State. At one point the law­maker even sought to bol­ster her case by not­ing that a Google search for “Rakhine con­flict” yields more than 200,000 English-lan­guage hits.

“There­fore, I think peo­ple who have global ca­chet like Kofi An­nan should be in­cluded in the com­mis­sion without rais­ing wor­ries. The com­mis­sion mem­bers have been cho­sen in ac­cor­dance with stan­dards such as [ad­her­ence to prin­ci­ples of] jus­tice and ad­mi­ra­tion, ex­pe­ri­ence and renown,” she said, while ac­knowl­edg­ing that Rakhine State’s af­fairs were “sub­tle”.

Pro­posal sup­porter U Oo Hla Saw (Arakan Na­tional Party; Mrauk-U) ar­gued that State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – whose of­fice an­nounced the cre­ation of the com­mis­sion on Au­gust 23 – was not vested with the author­ity to cre­ate such a body.

“Search and read the State Coun­sel­lor Law,” he said. “It doesn’t in­clude any es­tab­lish­ment of com­mis­sions in its five points on du­ties, author­ity and en­ti­tle­ments of the state coun­sel­lor. It means this com­mis­sion lacks le­git­i­macy,” he said.

The ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion has been tasked with re­search­ing and rec­om­mend­ing so­lu­tions to al­le­vi­ate in­ter­re­li­gious ten­sions that made in­ter­na­tional head­lines af­ter 2012 vi­o­lence be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims. More than 100,000 peo­ple, mostly Mus­lims, re­main in squalid dis­place­ment camps.

But U Oo Hla Saw yes­ter­day ques­tioned for­eign­ers’ abil­ity to un­der­stand the state’s com­plex­i­ties.

“Our Rakhine State faces ter­ri­ble Is­lami­sa­tion, which con­cerns all peo­ple in our coun­try. No one can know our Rakhine peo­ple’s life like we do. So I would like to say, co­op­er­ate with us and re­solve prob­lems to­gether,” he said.

Sup­port­ers of the pro­posal par­roted other ar­gu­ments put for­ward by na­tion­al­ists in re­cent days, in­clud­ing that the NLD ad­min­is­tra­tion should stick to a set of rec­om­men­da­tions made by a pre­vi­ous com­mis­sion un­der its pre­de­ces­sor govern­ment.

Daw Khin Saw Wai (ANP; Rathedaung) said Rakhine State’s big­gest prob­lem was “il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion”, touch­ing on a core is­sue for both Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights pro­po­nents: the fate of per­se­cuted Mus­lims in the state self-iden­ti­fy­ing as Ro­hingya, whom na­tion­al­ists re­fer to as “Ben­gali” to im­ply, er­ro­neously in many cases, that they were born in Bangladesh.

The ANP-ini­ti­ated pro­posal was de­feated via a stand­ing vote, with 250 law­mak­ers op­posed and 148 in favour.

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