Rakhine Advisory Commission Stands by Recommendations After Review

By San Yamin Aung 20 June 2018

YANGON — The government’s Advisory Commission on Rakhine State has determined that the recommendations it made 10 months ago to settle communal tensions in the restive region, just before the outbreak of the latest round of violence there, all remain relevant.

The commission, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, made the determination in early June following meetings in Copenhagen.

In a June 8 report on “Lessons Learned,” the commission said: “Although political realities in Rakhine changed dramatically and tragically after the ARSA [Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army] attack on August 25, 2017, the commission’s final report has remained relevant.”

Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement U Win Myat Aye, a senior member of a committee the government set up to implement the commission’s recommendations, said the meetings in the Danish capital were held both to review the relevance of the recommendations and to discuss progress on their implementation.

The meetings were also joined by National Security Adviser U Thaung Tun, who heads the Ministry of the Office of the Union Government; former UN official and historian Thant Myint-U; U Kyaw Yin Hlaing, who was a member of the previous administration’s Rakhine Investigation Commission; other members of the advisory commission; and senior representatives of donors governments, including the US, Canada, Australia, Norway, UK, and Sweden, that had funded the Advisory Commission’s work.

The NLD government formed the advisory commission in August 2016 with nine members — six national and three international — to provide it with recommendations on how to solve the ongoing communal violence between the state’s Muslims and Buddhist Arakanese and address the region’s underdeveloped infrastructure.

At the end of its one-year mandate, the commission released its final report in August 2017 with 88 recommendations.

They included full humanitarian and media access to conflict areas, a review of the 1982 Citizenship Law, freedom of movement for all people in the state, a comprehensive plan to close all IDP camps in line with international standards, and more cooperation with Bangladesh.

The government vowed to implement the recommendations as soon as they were released and formed a ministry-level committee to follow through.

Nearly 10 months on, the commission wanted  to review whether the recommendations were still relevant, U Win Myat Aye said, as the situation had changed since they were made.

Only eight hours after the advisory commission’s final report was released on Aug. 24, ARSA, a militant Muslim group, launched a coordinated attack on 30 police outposts in Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township.

In the wake of the attacks, the Myanmar army launched a clearance operation in the region that has driven some 700,000 mostly Rohingya to Bangladesh and drawn international condemnation. The UN and US have both accused Myanmar’s army of ethnic cleansing, which it denies.

U Win Myat Aye said the government has started on 80 of the 88 recommendations.

“We also discussed what more we should do based on the current situation,” he said, declining to provide more details.

Correction:  A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the meetings were joined by representatives from EU governments. In fact they were attended by senior representatives of donor governments, including the US, Canada, Australia, Norway, the UK and Sweden, that funded the Advisory Commission’s work.