Arakanese Civil Society Groups Refuse to Meet Kofi Annan-Led Commission

By Moe Myint 2 December 2016

RANGOON – Secretary of the Arakan State government U Tin Maung Swe confirmed that around 10 locals protested the arrival of the Kofi Annan-led Arakan State Advisory Commission at the Sittwe airport on Friday morning.

U Tin Maung Swe noted that the number of protesters was significantly fewer than the hundreds who turned out for Kofi Annan’s first visit to Arakan State in early September. The nine commission members’ current three-day visit will take them to Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Minbyar townships and the ancient Arakanese capital of Mrauk-U.

Mr. Annan and his delegation will tour rural Maungdaw on Saturday, where attacks on police outposts in the area in October led to heightened Burma Army “clearance operations” in search of suspected militants. The commission will go to Kyee Kan Pyin, the border police headquarters, and the villages of War Piek and Kyat Yoe Pyin.

Many of the civil society organizations from the state capital of Sittwe have claimed that they would not meet with Mr. Annan unless he would refrain from referring to the area’s Muslim community as “Rohingya,” the term with which the population self-identifies. The group is labeled by ethnic Buddhist Arakanese—and many Burmese—as “Bengali,” implying that they are originally from Bangladesh.

Arakan State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu and cabinet members welcome Mr. Annan at Sittwe airport on Friday. (Photo: RMC / Facebook)
Arakan State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu and cabinet members welcome Mr. Annan at Sittwe airport on Friday. (Photo: RMC / Facebook)

Arakanese nationalist U Than Tun pointed out that Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had previously requested foreign diplomats to also avoid using the terminology, citing instability in the region.

“He used that word during a press conference in Sittwe airport,” said U Than Tun, referring to Kofi Annan’s adoption of the term “Rohingya” during the September visit to the region.

“So we concluded that the commission is biased toward the other side,” he added.

U Than Tun told The Irrawaddy that he would meet with Mr. Annan if he refrained from recognizing the Rohingya as such.

On Thursday, Mr. Annan conducted a closed-door meeting with Buddhist and Muslim youth from Arakan State at Rangoon’s Center for Diversity and National Harmony. He also held talks with Arakanese historian Dr. Aye Chan, divisional Arakanese ethnic affairs minister U Zaw Aye Maung, Reuters’ Burma correspondent U Aung Hla Tun, as well as local politicians, at Sule Shangri-La Hotel in the commercial capital.