Kofi Annan to make second trip to Myanmar
The former UN chief and current chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State is due to convene meetings in Yangon tomorrow, before heading to Rakhine and Nay Pyi Taw.
AMID continued violence in northern Rakhine State and growing concern from international observers, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan will be paying another visit to Myanmar while State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi may be reconsidering the dates for her trip to Indonesia.
Mr Annan, chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, is set to convene meetings in Yangon tomorrow before heading to Rakhine State and Nay Pyi Taw, the commission has announced. His second trip to the country is scheduled to include three days in northern Rakhine State in Maungdaw district, as well as Myebon and MraukU townships. Access to the northern part of the state has been severely restricted in the wake of lethal raids on border guard posts starting on October 9 and subsequent Tatmadaw “clearance operations”. Foreign diplomats and UN representatives were escorted by security forces through the area on November 4, but independent travel to the region has been barred.
Daw Saw Khin Tint, a member of the commission, told The Myanmar Times that on its coming trip the commission plans to observe the areas where the attacks occurred and to listen to the residents’ concerns.
“The commission will submit an interim report in January or February next year … Before we do that, we need to observe, listen and analyse as much as we can,” she said.
Since the violence resurged in the area, thousands have been freshly displaced, according to the UN, while Human Rights Watch said satellite imagery shows villages in the area have been torched. Some humanitarian aid deliveries were recently resumed, but an estimated 130,000 people are still unable to access food rations. Several countries, including the United States last week, have called for an independent, on-theground investigation.
U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, confirmed Mr Annan’s upcoming trip, and said the commission would be in charge of its schedule.
The commission was formed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in August, with a mandate to identify conflict-prevention measures and advise on issues of humanitarian assistance and reconciliation in Rakhine State. The commission triggered backlash among nationalist Rakhine groups, which lobbied the government to dissolve the advisory team.
Mr Annan first travelled to Rakhine State in his capacity as chair of the commission in September, when he visited both Rakhine Buddhist and Muslim Rohingya IDP camps.
Meanwhile, facing international backlash for her relative silence on Rakhine State and continued allegations of abuses during the security forces’ sweeps for terrorist suspects, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly delayed a planned trip to Indonesia yesterday.
Daw Aung Suu Kyi had been expected to travel to Indonesia after visiting Singapore from November 30 to December 2.
“We postponed the Indonesia trip because of the problems in Rakhine and also northern Shan State,” foreign ministry deputy director general Daw Aye Aye Soe told AFP yesterday.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson U Kyaw Zeya reportedly told The Wall Street Journal yesterday that recent protests in Indonesia contributed to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s decision to delay her trip.
Hundreds of Indonesian Muslim students staged a protest in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta on November 24, demonstrating against treatment of the Muslim minority in Rakhine State. Separately over the weekend, Indonesian police reportedly arrested two suspects who had planned to attack several locations in the capital, including the Myanmar embassy.
However, when asked about the state counsellor’s suspended trip to Indonesia, both U Zaw Htaw and U Kyaw Zeya denied that the visit had been postponed.
“We are still negotiating for the date. The trip was not postponed or cancelled due to the protesting. The date has not yet been fixed,” U Zaw Htay said.
U Kyaw Zeya said when the trip is finalised it will be announced in state media. He added that the visit had not officially been announced in the state press as of yesterday.
“The trip will be arranged soon. [The timing] is not related with Rakhine issues,” he said.
Advisory Commission on Rakhine State chair Kofi Annan (left) holds a joint press conference with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (right) in Yangon on September 5.