Gov’t Holds Rare Top-Level Security Meeting on Rakhine State

By The Irrawaddy 8 June 2018

YANGON — Key National Defense and Security Council members including the president, state counselor, Army chief and other senior Myanmar officials met at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw on Friday to discuss the latest developments in restive Rakhine State.

The high-level meeting including members of the NDSC was the first since President U Win Myint took office in late March, and only the second since the National League for Democracy-led government took power more than two years ago.

The council comprises President U Win Myint, Foreign Affairs Minister and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar Army Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar’s two vice presidents, the speakers of the upper and lower houses of the Union Parliament, the deputy military chief and the ministers of home affairs, defense and border affairs.

The officials discussed the government’s signing of a memorandum of understanding with UN agencies on the return of refugees from Bangladesh, the formation of an investigation commission, the latest Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore, and border security problems, according to the President’s Office.

The meeting was joined by the ministers of the State Counselor’s Office and international cooperation, and the deputy minister for the President’s Office.

Executive director Ko Ye of the Tagaung Institute of Political Studies said the government and the military appeared to be locked in a struggle over Rakhine State, with the two sides taking different views on the issue.

“I think the meeting is also being held to inform the military about the [government’s] recent signing of an MOU regarding the refugee repatriation process, and the inclusion of an international member in its new commission of enquiry,” he said.

After a recent visit to Myanmar by a UN Security Council team, the council urged that transparent investigations be conducted into accusations of violence against Rohingya Muslims, warning that failure to do so could lead to military officials being referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The President’s Office announced plans on May 31 to establish a three-member independent commission of enquiry to investigate “violations of human rights and related issues” that occurred during violence that engulfed northern Rakhine after Rohingya militants attacked security posts there in late August. It said the body will consist of three people including an international member and be assisted by local and international legal and technical experts.

On Wednesday, the country’s main opposition and former ruling party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), submitted an urgent proposal to the Lower House imploring the government to exclude foreigners from the commission.

Parliament approved discussion of the USDP’s proposal and had scheduled debate for Friday. However, it was announced on Thursday that sessions of the Upper House and Lower House scheduled for Friday had been canceled.

USDP spokesperson Dr. Nanda Hla Myint alleged that the establishment of the commission was intended by the government to put the military as well as the country in danger.

The USDP released a statement opposing the commission.