KYAW YE LYNN
YANGON, Myanmar (AA): Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has announced the formation of a new advisory commission tasked with finding lasting solutions to “complex and delicate issues” in western Rakhine State — home to around 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims.
A memorandum of understanding is to be signed between the Ministry of Office of the State Counselor and the Kofi Annan Foundation — named after the former United Nations secretary-general who serves as its chairman — to form the nine-member Advisory Commission.
The region has seen a series of communal violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims — described by the UN as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide — since mid-2012 that has left nearly 100 dead and some 100,000 people displaced in camps.
According to Wednesday’s announcement, the commission will be chaired by Noble Peace laureate Kofi Annan and composed of three international and six national “persons of Eminence” who are regarded as highly experienced, respected and neutral.
The Commission will undertake meetings with all relevant stakeholders, international experts and foreign dignitaries to hear their views and to analyze relevant issues with a view to finding the best possible solutions to prevailing problems.
The Commission will consider humanitarian and development issues, access to basic services, the assurance of basic rights and the security of the people of the troubled state.
It is also tasked with undertaking assessments and making recommendations by focusing on conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation, institution building and promotion of development of Rakhine.
The body will examine international aspects of the situation, including the background of those seeking refugee status abroad.
After wide consultations, the Commission will submit its findings and recommendations to the Myanmar government through the state counselor and thereafter publish its report within twelve months of its establishment.
Rohingya in the impoverished Rakhine region have been effectively denied citizenship by a nationality law enacted in 1982 by Ne Win, a military strongman who staged a coup and whose 1962-1988 leadership saw the adoption of xenophobic policies.
Since her party’s victory in the Nov. 8 election, Suu Kyi has been placed under tremendous international pressure to solve problems faced by Rohingya but has had to play a careful balancing act for fear of upsetting the country’s nationalists, many of whom have accused Muslims of trying to eradicate the country’s Buddhist traditions.
The official term for the unrecognized Rohingya had previously been “Bengali”, which suggests they are not from Myanmar but interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi’s attempts to instead introduce the term “Muslim community in Rakhine state” have been met with protests from ultra-nationalists, including the monk-led Ma Ba Tha that was instrumental in the previous government establishing a set of controversial laws involving race and religion.
Suu Kyi has, however, enforced the notion that the root of many of Rakhine’s problems are economic, and is encouraging investment in the area, which in turn her National League for Democracy hopes will lead to reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.