Analysis: Still Hope Kofi Annan Recommendations will Bring Stability to Rakhine

By The Irrawaddy 19 October 2017

YANGON — During his five-day trip to Myanmar, the United Nation’s under-secretary-general for political affairs urged the government and military to comprehensively implement the recommendations from the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman is the highest UN official so far to urge the government and the country’s powerful military to implement the recommendations.

His visit came days after ex-UN chief Kofi Annan’s briefing to UN Security Council members in his capacity as chair of the advisory commission, which was mandated to make recommendations for improving the situation in the state on conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, reconciliation, institution-building and development.

He said the recommendations of the advisory commission could still serve as a solid framework for achieving lasting peace in Rakhine before he highlighted some of the central issues the commission addressed in its recommendations.

The issues include poverty, citizenship verification, closing internally displaced people (IDP) camps, border security and enhancing inter-communal dialogue between Arakanese and Muslims.

“Implementation of our recommendations could help to stabilize the situation and address the humanitarian crisis,” he told the council members on Friday.

Soon after the release of the recommendations, Muslim militant group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked 30 police outposts and an army base in northern Rakhine.

The attacks triggered Myanmar Army clearance operations, which forced more than 536,000 self-identifying Rohingya Muslims to flee for Bangladesh, bringing with them reports of indiscriminate killing, rape and arson by security forces.

Tens of thousands of Arakanese have fled militant violence to other parts of the state, with the government denouncing ARSA as a terrorist group and saying it kills civilians.

Kofi Annan said at the press briefing of the Security Council meeting that everybody present agreed on the short-term requirements—the cessation of violence, provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need, and work for the eventual voluntary return of those who in Bangladesh.

Based on the discussion with Security Council members on Oct. 13, he said, the international community was prepared to engage with Myanmar, working on all the issues the commission has recommended in order to stabilize the situation.

“If we don’t, we are going to have a long term frustrating problem in the region which can be very serious down the line,” he warned.

Despite his encouragement to implement the recommendations, Kofi Annan acknowledged that it was difficult to get coherent and coordinated implementation of these recommendations because of the duality in the Myanmar leadership—both government and military hold powerful positions.

“But we need to press ahead to work with the both sides and make sure that as a government they work together,” he said.

“I think it’s important for Myanmar that [if] Rakhine is settled, that would give them time and space to focus on other major problems in the country at large because it can take lots of time and effort and resources,” he added.

The Myanmar government has welcomed the recommendations and vowed to implement them in the shortest possible time frame, according to a statement from the State Counselor’s Office shortly after the report’s release.

But the ARSA offensive has delayed the implementations. Only on Sep. 12—18 days after the attacks—was a ministerial committee formed for the recommendations’ rapid implementations.

Some pilot projects were under way earlier this week, such as resettlement for Rakhine and Muslims villagers whose houses were burnt down. At the same time, national verifications cards for the citizenship process are being issued to Muslims at Shwezar village tract in Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township, according to local media reports.