Arakan Unrest Probe Holds Meeting

By Saw Yan Naing 20 August 2012

The recently formed government investigation commission to probe the sectarian conflict in Arakan (Rakhine) State held an initial meeting on Sunday at which members were introduced and tactics discussed.

Commission member Ko Ko Gyi, a leader of the 88 Generation Students group, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that topics included a fact-finding program as well as how to collect information and interview affected people firsthand.

The former political prisoner said that travel plans and security for commission members on field trips were also discussed.

The 27-member body, headed by a retired Religious Affairs Ministry official, was formed by the government last week and includes representatives from political parties, Islamic and Buddhist organizations, opposition and ethnic groups, NGOs as well as former student activists.

Also involved are Burma’s best-known activist comedian Zarganar, an outspoken critic of the government, as well as Shan Nationalities League for Democracy Chairman Hkun Htun Oo.

Ko Ko Gyi also said that on Tuesday commission members will meet local chief ministers from border regions where sectarian tensions are problematic.

“We will discuss what is necessary for commission members to be able to conduct their work,” he said. “We will try to meet concerned people and ask about their feelings and experiences. We will collect detailed information about the events from witnesses.”

After three months of investigation, the commission will present its findings to President Thein Sein on Nov. 16. Members will suggest solutions to end the longstanding animosity between Buddhist and Muslim communities in western Burma.

Haji Nyunt Maung Shein, a prominent Muslim leader in Burma who is part of the commission, said, “The main purpose of the investigation is to sincerely submit suggestions to the president for a solution. We hope it will have a positive impact because the commission is an independent body.”

Kyaw Yin Hlaing, the secretary of the commission and a member of Myanmar Egress, said, “Even after three months of investigation we can extend the timeframe if more time is needed to investigate.”

The violence which erupted in Arakan State at the start of June killed more than 70 people and left tens of thousands in temporary camps, according to official figures.

Communities attacked each other with spears and machetes and went on rampages burning homes and razing entire villages. Human Rights Watch estimates that 100,000 people have been displaced by the violence.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, comprising with 57 Islamic nations, also condemned the Burmese security forces over their response to the strife and said it will present its concerns to the next meeting of the UN General Assembly.