Former UN Sec-Gen to lead Rakhine committee

By OLIVER SLOW | FRONTIER

YANGON — Former UN Secretary-General Mr Kofi Annan will head a committee tasked with finding solutions in restive Rakhine State, according to a release by the office of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Annan, who headed the UN from 1997 to 2006, will lead the nine-member Advisory Committee on Rakhine State. It will be tasked with finding “a national initiative to resolve protracted issues in the region,” the release said.

Rakhine, one of Myanmar’s poorest regions, has been beset with tensions since violence erupted there in 2012, leaving hundreds dead and an estimated 120,000 – mostly Muslims who self-identify as Rohingya – in camps with no freedom of movement.

The commission will include six Myanmar staff and three international, including U Win Mra, chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; Daw Saw Khin, vice chairperson of the Rakhine Women Administration; Mr Ghassan Salame, a Lebanese politician who was UN Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General from 2003 to 2006; and Ms Laetitia van den Assum of Holland; who was special advisor to UNAIDS from 2005 to 2006.

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The commission will speak with actors in Rakhine State to consider “humanitarian and development issues, access to basic services, the assurance of basic rights, and the security of the people of Rakhine.”

After consultations, it will submit its findings to the government, through the State Counsellor, and a report will be published “within twelve months of its establishment.”

The situation is Rakhine is one of the biggest challenges for the new government. Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for what some deem her silence on the issue.

In May, during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Aung San Suu Kyi asked for “space” to let the tensions settle, adding that use of the term Rohingya would only fuel tensions.

Her government has issued an edict to recognise the community as “Muslims in Rakhine State” in official communication. The previous government had consistently referred to them as “Bengalis”, a term implying the community had migrated illegally into Rakhine State from Bangladesh — though many in the Rohingya community trace their roots in Myanmar back generations.

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