Government, military leaders discuss Rakhine crisis

By SU MYAT MON and CLARE HAMMOND | FRONTIER

YANGON — Members of the National Defence and Security Council met in Nay Pyi Taw today to discuss security and international relations, including the crisis in Rakhine State.

The meeting between the 11 council members and four other officials is the closest the powerful civil-military coordinating body has come to holding formal talks under the current administration.

Civilian and military leaders discussed a memorandum of understanding signed earlier this week between the government and two UN agencies to ensure the “voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation” of refugees from Bangladesh, according to a statement posted by the President’s Office to Facebook this evening.

Discussions also covered the formation of a three-member “independent commission of inquiry” to investigate alleged human rights violations in northern Rakhine State; the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore; the Rakhine crisis; and security in the border areas, the statement said.

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The meeting was the first time that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing have appeared together in public in recent months.

Relations between the two have reportedly deteriorated due to the fallout over the military’s brutal response to attacks on police outposts last August, which caused around 700,000 people – mostly Rohingya Muslims – to flee to Bangladesh. 

Some Western countries have applied targeted sanctions against senior Tatmadaw officials, while there have also been attempts to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

Pyithu Hluttaw lawmaker Daw Khin Saw Wai (Arakan National Party, Rathedaung) told Frontier the meeting was a positive step in bringing the military and civilian leaders together.

“It sounds like they are cooperating to work better together in Rakhine,” she said.

Political analyst U Maung Maung Soe said he believed the discussions had focused on the inclusion of a foreign member in the commission of inquiry. “The Pyithu Hluttaw is against this plan and might have tried to make its views clear in the meeting,” he said.

“In my opinion it is far more important for the commission to release facts the world can believe, rather than to include a foreigner.

“But at the same time, since the government and the military have different views, it may be hard otherwise for the international [community] to trust [the commission of inquiry].”

Parliament was postponed today to enable the speakers of both houses to attend the meeting, which was also attended by the nine other members of the National Defence and Security Council and four other officials: Minister for the State Counsellor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe, Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin, Union Attorney General U Tun Tun Oo and Deputy Minister for the President’s Office U Min Thu.

The NDSC, which was formed in 2011, is the most powerful executive body in the country and the most important formal interface for civilian and military leaders to formulate policy.

It comprises the president, two vice presidents, two parliamentary speakers, the commander-in-chief, his deputy, and the ministers for defense, foreign affairs, home affairs and border affairs.

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