Arakan State Youths Tell Commission They Want Peace

By Moe Myint 1 December 2016

RANGOON – The chair of Arakan State Advisory Commission, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, conducted a closed-door meeting with Buddhist and Muslim youths from Arakan State at the Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH) in Rangoon’s Sanchaung Township on Thursday morning.

Six youths from Arakan capital Sittwe met with Kofi Annan and his eight commission colleagues according to commission member Al Haj U Aye Lwin who spoke to The Irrawaddy outside the meeting. He said the key point that the youth made was “peace.”

“Arakanese and Muslims want peace and to end [conflict] because it harms everyone; having hatred and hostility towards each other cause deterioration both physically and mentally,” he said. The youths “have already learnt that this has given grief to their societies,” he added.

Kofi Annan and his commission members believe trust between the Buddhist and Muslim communities is still low due to a lack of social interaction, despite communication in the business world.

Kofi Annan encouraged the representatives at the meeting to accelerate the connection between the two societies by working together on community projects to build trust, said Al Haj U Aye Lwin.

U Aye Lwin added that enforcing social engagement between two societies was insufficient to diminish distrust—the two sides must reconsider behaviors which could create negative sentiments with the other side.

After the meeting with the Kofi Annan, the three Buddhists and three Muslims sat at the same table to eat lunch. “That was a good step,” said U Aye Lwin.

The Irrawaddy had a short conversation with Daw Saw Khin Tin who is a Buddhist Arakanese representative in the Kofi-Annan led commission.

She requested that commission members not ignore the humanitarian situation in Maungdaw Township but to encourage international relief organizations in Arakan State to act neutrally and without bias.

She confirmed that the nine-member commission would be travelling to Maungdaw on Saturday and have scheduled tours of some villages in northern Maungdaw.

The commission will spend three days there and visit four townships in northern Arakan State—Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Minbya and Mrauk­-U.

Kofi Annan left the CDNH at about 12 p.m. for a discussion with Muslim politicians at the Sule Shangri La Hotel.

The Irrawaddy contacted several people who attended the meeting but could not reach them by the time of publication.