Re­jec­tion of Rakhine ad­vi­sory body ap­proved by state hlut­taw

The Myanmar Times - - News - YI YWAL MYINT thanhtoo@mm­times.com

A PRO­POSAL re­ject­ing the le­git­i­macy of the Rakhine State Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion and its ac­tiv­i­ties was ap­proved by the Rakhine State leg­is­la­ture yes­ter­day dur­ing a hlut­taw ses­sion, in a vote of ques­tion­able prac­ti­cal sig­nif­i­cance.

Four­teen state MPs de­bated the mo­tion, which was sim­i­lar to a pro­posal in the Union leg­is­la­ture’s lower house put for­ward and de­feated last week. The Rakhine State par­lia­ment’s ob­jec­tion to the com­mis­sion re­ceived de facto ap­proval yes­ter­day af­ter no one spoke against it.

“The Rakhine State Hlut­taw rep­re­sents Rakhine peo­ple’s voices and de­sires, so I will sup­port this pro­posal on the ba­sis of the Rakhine peo­ple’s de­sire,” said state hlut­taw MP U Naing Kywe Aye (NLD; Thandwe 2), of­fer­ing rare push­back from a Na­tional League for Democ­racy law­maker against a com­mis­sion his rul­ing party formed.

The crux of op­po­si­tion to the nine­mem­ber com­mis­sion, am­pli­fied by na­tion­al­ist protests in recent weeks, has hinged on its in­clu­sion of three for­eign­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer UN sec­re­tary gen­eral Kofi An­nan.

Rakhine law­mak­ers yes­ter­day of­fered sim­i­lar jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for re­ject­ing the com­mis­sion as those put for­ward by Union par­lia­men­tar­i­ans last week.

Frag­ile Rakhine State’s af­fairs needed to be ap­proach in con­sul­ta­tion with lo­cal stake­hold­ers and with pub­lic sup­port, and for­ma­tion of the com­mis­sion in­volved nei­ther of these, went one ar­gu­ment. Its work could ac­tu­ally ex­ac­er­bate prob­lems, went another, in a state still grap­pling with in­ter-re­li­gious ten­sions be­tween Bud­dhist Rakhine and mi­nor­ity Mus­lims self-iden­ti­fy­ing as Ro­hingya.

Other fa­mil­iar re­frains were also on of­fer: that the com­mis­sion’s for­eign­ers posed a threat to sovereignty and that their out­sider sta­tus ren­dered them un­able to truly un­der­stand the state’s com­plex­i­ties.

The Rakhine State Hlut­taw’s of­fi­cial re­jec­tion of the com­mis­sion is likely of more sym­bolic than sub­stan­tive im­por­tance, given that state leg­is­la­tures have typ­i­cally had lit­tle power rel­a­tive to their Union coun­ter­part. But the op­tics of the sit­u­a­tion – a state hlut­taw re­fut­ing, to lit­tle prac­ti­cal avail, an edict from Nay Pyi Taw – are not likely to help the NLD as it pushes a mantra of na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and pro-au­ton­omy rhetoric about de­cen­tral­is­ing power to give eth­nic mi­nori­ties more say.

The Rakhine State Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion has been tasked with rec­om­mend­ing durable so­lu­tions to the pro­tracted in­ter-com­mu­nal di­vide be­tween Bud­dhists and Mus­lims since two bouts of vi­o­lence be­tween mem­bers of the two re­li­gions wracked the state in 2012, leav­ing more than 100,000 Ro­hingya dis­placed.

But Lieu­tenant Colonel Min Oo, a mil­i­tary MP, sounded a sus­pi­cious note yes­ter­day, de­spite an ear­lier pledge from Mr An­nan that the com­mis­sion was not look­ing to con­duct a “hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion” in the state.

“We need to care­fully work not to be a cul­prit for the trou­bles [the state faces] be­cause the Rakhine State Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion is be­ing or­gan­ised with for­eign­ers,” Lt Col Min Oo said. “We need to watch very care­fully the com­mis­sion’s ac­tiv­i­ties.”

State hlut­taw MP U Tun Aung Thein (Arakan Na­tional Party; Buthi­daung 2) said, “The es­tab­lish­ment of this com­mis­sion, which com­prises three for­eign­ers in­clud­ing for­mer UN gen­eral sec­re­tary Kofi Anan, is like we are try­ing to solve our in­ter­nal af­fairs by look­ing abroad.”

The Rakhine State Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion was formed by the Union-level gov­ern­ment on Au­gust 23. Its mem­bers toured Sit­twe town­ship last week in its ini­tial foray into ad­dress­ing the state’s woes.

– Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

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