GOVT GETS HEAT FROM BOTH SIDES IN RAKHINE PROBE CON­TRO­VERSY

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­aung@mm­times.com

THE gov­ern­ment’s plan to form an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate abuses was im­me­di­ately met with howls of cyn­i­cisms and protests from both those who sup­port the cause of the Mus­lim refugees from north­ern Rakhine State and from those who want them out of the coun­try.

The New York-based Hu­man Rights Watch blasted the pro­posed three-mem­ber com­mis­sion, which will in­clude an “in­ter­na­tional per­son­al­ity,” de­scrib­ing it as “not merely in­ad­e­quate, but an at­tempt to de­lay and de­flect real jus­tice.”

On the other side of the spec­trum, the mil­i­tary and op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers warned the gov­ern­ment against in­clud­ing a for­eigner on the panel, which they said would be an in­fringe­ment on the coun­try’s sovereignty.

An­a­lysts said that which­ever direc­tion the gov­ern­ment moves, it will be viewed with sus­pi­cion by ad­vo­cates on the op­pos­ing sides of the is­sue.

They warned that the move to cre­ate the com­mis­sion would cre­ate po­lit­i­cal ten­sion. The coun­try’s tran­si­tion to democ­racy be­gan in 2010 un­der former pres­i­dent U Thein Sein and reached a turn­ing point in 2016 when the civil­ian-elected gov­ern­ment led by Aung San Suu Kyi was al­lowed to share power with the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary that ruled the coun­try for over half a cen­tury.

U Ye Myo Hein, a founder of the Ta­gaung In­sti­tute of Po­lit­i­cal Stud­ies (TIPS), said if the gov­ern­ment does not co­op­er­ate with the Tat­madaw (mil­i­tary) on the Rakhine probe, the ten­sion be­tween the mil­i­tary and gov­ern­ment will in­crease and could spell trou­ble for the coun­try’s democ­racy.

“We learned that the case could se­ri­ously cre­ate ten­sion be­cause the mil­i­tary views this as an at­tack on sovereignty and a chal­lenge to their power” he said.

He added that State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ap­par­ently found the cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion as a com­pro­mise to not ac­cept­ing the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil’s fact-find­ing mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate al­leged abuses in the strife-torn state.

But this does not sit well with the mil­i­tary.

Tat­madaw mem­bers of par­lia­ment and the mil­i­tary-backed op­po­si­tion Union Sol­i­dar­ity and Development Party minced no words in crit­i­cis­ing the planned com­mis­sion.

“Is our coun­try ruled by the gov­ern­ment or in­ter­na­tional (or­gan­i­sa­tions)?” Colonel Myint Cho de­manded an­grily when the hlut­taw dis­cussed the is­sue last week.

He said the par­tic­i­pa­tion of for­eign­ers on the com­mis­sion would in­ter­fere with the coun­try’s sovereignty, dis­re­spect Myan­mar peo­ple, look down on Myan­mar cul­ture, and be un­trust­wor­thy.

U Thaung Aye, a USDP mem­ber of par­lia­ment said by pro­ceed­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Myan­mar will be bow­ing to in­ter­na­tional pres­sure and al­le­ga­tions, and ex­pressed doubts that in­ter­na­tional bod­ies would ac­cept the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It is ques­tion­able whether the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will ac­cept the find­ings of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion car­ried out by this group,” he said.

But the gov­ern­ment is not giv­ing up on its plan, although it tip­toes around the Tat­madaw.

Last week, Daw Aung Sa Suu Kyi called an ur­gent meet­ing with the mil­i­tary top brass to dis­cuss the Rakhine is­sue, na­tional se­cu­rity and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice the meet­ing was at­tended by Pres­i­dent U Win Myint, the State Coun­sel­lor, the vice pres­i­dents, the hlut­taw speak­ers, Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing, his deputy, the Home Af­fairs min­is­ter, the min­is­ter of De­fence, the min­is­ter of Bor­der Af­fairs, the at­tor­ney-gen­eral and the deputy min­is­ter of the Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice.

Ac­cord­ing to a source associated with the mil­i­tary, Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing kept mum dur­ing the meet­ing and did not make any com­ment af­ter the State Coun­sel­lor ex­plained what she aimed for with the cre­ation of the com­mis­sion.

The source said the Tat­madaw does not sup­port the es­tab­lish­ment of com­mis­sion as it be­lieved the Rakhine prob­lem should not be in­ter­na­tion­alised and must be solved in­ter­nally.

U Than Soe Naing, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, warned that if the Tat­madaw and the civil­ian au­thor­i­ties could not find com­mon ground on the is­sue, the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal divide could widen.

He said the gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary must be trans­par­ent in their deal­ings in order to come up with a united re­sponse to the in­ter­na­tional fall­out on the Rakhine cri­sis.

“It’s true that mil­i­tary may have con­cerns with the com­mis­sion. How­ever, if they dis­cuss or co­op­er­ate trans­par­ently with each other I think they will over­come this. The prob­lem is they are not trans­par­ent with each other,” he said.

U Khin Maung Tin, deputy min­is­ter of the State Coun­sel­lor’s Of­fice, said the es­tab­lish­ment of the com­mis­sion is aimed at show­ing the world that Myan­mar is a du­ti­ful mem­ber of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity which takes ac­tion ac­cord­ing to the law against hu­man right vi­o­la­tions.

U Pe Than, a par­lia­ment mem­ber of the Arakan Na­tional Party, said the in­ter­na­tional ap­proach only con­sid­ers the hu­man rights is­sue with­out fac­tor­ing in se­cu­rity, which is very im­por­tant in the Rakhine cri­sis.

“We have to wait and see who will lead the com­mis­sion,” he said.

Photo: Lun Min Mang

The house of a Mus­lim vil­lager burns in Maung­daw town­ship, Rakhine State, in Au­gust 2017.

Photo: EPA

A Mus­lim from north­ern Rakhine car­ries re­lief goods at a camp refugee in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in Fe­bru­ary.

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