Burma Sets Up Internal Probe of Sectarian Unrest
By Associated Press 18 August 2012
RANGOON — Burma’s government has formed a commission to investigate the causes of recent sectarian violence in which at least 83 people were killed.
President Thein Sein’s website announced the commission Friday, more than two months after the June clashes between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas that displaced tens of thousands of people.
Thein Sein, who has introduced political reforms to Burma since taking over as president last year following decades of repressive military rule, has rejected calls from the United Nations and human rights groups for independent investigators, saying the unrest is an internal affair.
The 27-member commission will be headed by a retired Religious Affairs ministry official and include former student activists, a former U.N. officer and representatives from political parties and Islamic and other religious organizations. They include several government critics who served jail time as political prisoners, including the widely respected activist and comedian Zarganar, and Ko Ko Gyi, who helped lead a popular student uprising against the former junta in 1988.
“The president wants to show the international community that he is trying his best to deal with this extraordinarily sensitive issue,” said Hkun Htun Oo, who also was appointed to the body. Hkun Htun Oo chairs an ethnic minority political party, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, and was released from prison in January after a seven-year term.
The commission is tasked with proposing solutions to the longstanding hatred between the two communities and is to submit its findings by Sept. 17.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the establishment of the commission, which “could make important contributions to restoring peace and harmony in the state and in creating a conducive environment for a more inclusive way forward to tackle the underlying causes of the violence, including the condition of the Muslim communities in Rakhine,” U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey said late Friday.