Arakan Commission Holds First Press Conference

By Nyein Nyein 18 September 2012

It will take time to release the findings of the Investigation Commission on communal strife in Arakan State because accuracy is important, said Dr. Kyaw Yin Hlaing, the secretary of the commission, speaking at a press conference in Rangoon on Monday evening.

The 27 members of the government-sanctioned commission conducted their first tour to the affected region from Sept. 8 – 15 when they visited Arakan State capital Sittwe, Kyauktaw, Rathedaung, Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Mrauk U, Ramree and Taunggoke townships.

Speaking at the delegation’s first press conference since its return from Arakan State, Kyaw Yin Hlaing said, “We went to all the various places—where conflict occurred, where conflict did not occur—to observe the roots of the strife and why it did not break out in other areas.”

The commission was presented at the press briefing by Dr. Kyaw Yin Hlaing from Myanmar Egress, chairman Dr. Myo Myint, journalist Maung Wuntha, comedian Zarganar, 88 Generation leader Ko Ko Gyi, and retired UNICEF senior officer Dr. Yin Yin New.

“We listened carefully to the people’s concerns and documented our interviews,” said Maung Wuntha, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. He noted that the region appears to be secure and safe at present because all the camps housing displaced persons are fully protected.

“However, both sides raised concerns about long-term security,” he said.

Maung Wuntha said the commission will now form eight sub-committees to investigate specific tasks before their findings are compiled in November and handed to the president. However, he said, the commission may need more time to produce an accurate report.

President Thein Sein previously gave the Investigation Commission until Sept. 17 as the date for submitting their report, but the deadline was later extended by three months.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, 88 Generation leader Ko Ko Gyi said the refugees face certain difficulties such as hygiene and a lack of clean water.

Maung Wuntha concluded that the trip was “smooth” and that they were able to travel throughout the state with the help of local authorities. Only a lack of road and travel infrastructure caused them delays, he said.

According to government figures, since the sectarian violence erupted three months ago, more than 80 people were killed, 112 people were injured, around 5,000 houses were burned down, and 14 monasteries, 17 mosques and three schools were destroyed.

Most of the schools are still unopened, said the commission, a problem they will try to solve so that they may reopen in the near future.

According to local NGOs, there are still about 3,000 ethnic Arakanese sheltering at three camps and a few monasteries, while more than 60,000 Rohingyas are being housed at seven camps.

In Maungdaw and Buthidaung, two of the epicenters of the violence, where more than 90 percent of the population are Rohingya, only Arakanese Buddhists remain at shelters, say local NGOs. Many said they were planning to leave the area because they felt unsafe and had placed “for sale” signs outside their homes.

In June, the government ordered an investigation into the lynching of 10 Muslim pilgrims in Taunggoke. No report has yet been submitted on the incident.

Maung Wuntha confirmed that the commission will travel again next month to Arakan State to further assess the situation by forming smaller research teams.

Rangoon-based Irrawaddy Reporter Nang Sai Nom also contributed to this article.