Protests greet Kofi Annan in Sittwe as advisory commission begins work

By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER

YANGON — Hundreds of demonstrators jeered Kofi Annan at Sittwe Airport on Tuesday morning, as the former United Nations secretary-general commenced work on an advisory commission aimed at defusing communal tensions in restive Rakhine State.

Many booed and shouted “No Kofi-led commission”, as his convoy left the state capital airport, holding signs reading “No to foreigners’ biased intervention in our Rakhine State’s affairs”.

“We do not like interference,” protester Ko Thein said, adding that crowds would return to mark Annan’s departure.

Mr Annan is expected to meet with Rakhine leaders and tour camps for the state’s internally-displaced Muslim population before leaving on Wednesday.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Since the government announced his chairmanship of the new commission late last month, Annan has been the focus of criticism from Rakhine nationalist groups, who say a resolution to the state’s ongoing citizenship impasse and chronic underdevelopment should be devised without international involvement.

000_fw4z6.jpg

Demonstrators stand along a road while a police car escorts a vehicle carrying Kofi Annan along the airport road following his arrival in Sittwe on Tuesday. (Romeo Gacad / Frontier)

“We don’t want people who are foreign to get involved in this case, which is a matter for our own country, and is not the problem of foreign countries,” U Aung Than Wai, the Sittwe secretary of the Arakan National Party, told Frontier on Monday. “We want people who are experts from the states and regions of Myanmar.”

He added that the government should instead adopt recommendations from the Rakhine Investigation Commission, established after communal riots claimed the lives of more than 200 people in 2012, to address the state’s issues.

The ANP rebuffed a formal invitation to meet with Annan at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre in Yangon on Monday. Dr Aye Maung, the party’s chairman, said vice-chair Daw Aye Nu Sein instead presented him with a letter outlining the party’s position on the commission.

“The ANP didn’t discuss anything but said we don’t agree with the commission and that it needs to be abolished,” he told Frontier on Tuesday.

More than 100,000 mostly Rohingya Muslim IDPs remain in squalid camps since the 2012 violence with limited access to healthcare and humanitarian relief.

Last week, sitting UN chief Ban Ki-Moon called on Myanmar to grant citizenship to the the group and respect their right to self-identify as Rohingya, a position at odds with the Rakhine community who claim the community are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Additional reporting by Kyaw Phone Kyaw in Yangon and AFP in Sittwe.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar