Report on Arakan Unrest Stalled Three Weeks

By Nyein Nyein 2 April 2013

The official fact-finding commission tasked with investigating last year’s communal strife in Arakan State will delay submitting its findings to the president for three more weeks.

The highly anticipated report is expected to examine the causes of clashes between Arakan Buddhists and minority Muslims in Burma’s westernmost state, but it will also make recommendations for how the government should handle future religious and ethnic conflict.

On Sunday, the deadline for the final report of the seven-month inquiry, the Arakan Investigation Commission said in a statement that it would release its findings on April 23.

Khin Maung Swe, a politician who is on the commission, said commission members met on Sunday to review their findings and provide individual recommendations for the final report.

“It could take about four or five days to finalize our recommendations, so it [releasing the report] has been delayed,” the leader of the National Democratic Force party said on Monday. “There is no other reason for it [the delay].”

In the statement on Sunday, the commission said their report was “ready to submit to the president,” but added that they were still in communication with the government and that “the recommendations and some findings in the report include discussion on incidents outside Arakan State.”

The statement did not specify which incidents outside Arakan State would be mentioned in the report.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the government was providing necessary information to the commission when asked.

“After the draft report is finished, the transcripts are shared with the relevant officials—who provide information to the commission—for checking accuracy,” he said.

Of the inquiry into incidents outside Arakan State, he added: “They [the commission] may consult the government’s opinion when cases happening outside Arakan State come to their attention.”

The announcement for the report’s delay comes after sectarian violence last month between Buddhists and Muslims in central Burma left at least 43 people dead, mostly in the town of Meikhtila.

The Arakan Investigation Commission said in its statement that the new deadline was set for late April because Burma celebrates Thingyan, the water festival holiday, during the second and third weeks of the month.

Ye Htut said the commission’s leaders would share their findings directly with President Thein Sein and would need to wait for the meeting.

Some commission members told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the process of drafting the report lacked transparency, saying they had not been informed in advance about the commission’s meeting on Sunday or told when the findings would be submitted to the president.

Aye Maung, a lawmaker from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and a commission member, said he was only given one day’s notice about the meeting and thus could not attend.

“I didn’t have time to make travel arrangements to Rangoon, since I’m currently in Sittwe [the capital of Arakan State],” said the lawmaker, who returned to his constituency during the Parliament’s break session.

He said some commission members had not been briefed on the interim report before it was submitted to Thein Sein in November. “I only learned about the details of the interim report after it was sent,” he said.

Given the lack of transparency, Aye Maung said, he did not know why the final report had been delayed for three weeks.

He added that he believed the delay could be related to sectarian conflict last month in Meikhtila, which he said could have an effect on the report.

A spokesperson from the commission’s office was not available for comment when contacted by The Irrawaddy on Monday and Tuesday.

It is not yet clear whether the report will be made available to the public.

“After the president and the commission talk, they will decide whether it will be publicized or not,” Ye Htut said.

The fact-finding commission was formed in August, two months after communal strife between Arakan Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims broke out in June.

About 180 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, were killed in clashes in June and October, while dozens of villages were burned and more than 100,000 people were displaced.

The commission submitted an interim report in November but delayed its final report due to the renewal of violence in October.