Suu Kyi and Committee Stakeholders Discuss Challenges in Arakan State

By The Irrawaddy 14 July 2016

RANGOON — As head of the Central Committee for Arakan State Peace, Stability and Development, Aung San Suu Kyi invited stakeholders to discuss on Thursday in Naypyidaw the challenges they face when implementing local development projects, according to a statement from the State Counselor’s Office.

Arakan State suffers from severe underdevelopment after decades of neglect under former military-led governments, but at the forefront of the talks was the citizenship verification process and National Verification Cards (NVCs), which were handed out to those who would be scrutinized for citizenship eligibility under the 1982 Citizenship Law at a later date.

At the center of the NVC conflict are those who self-identify as Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority, who have refused to accept the cards because the bearer’s religion and and ethnicity is not stated on them.

The citizenship verification program is an extension of the Rakhine State Action Plan, unveiled under the former government in 2014 in response to the violence between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012 and 2013. As originally conceived, Arakan State’s Rohingya population was only permitted to apply for citizenship on the condition that they self-identified as “Bengali,” a term which implies that they have migrated from neighboring Bangladesh.

Thein Swe, minister of labor, immigration and population, said that the ministry has issued about 2,000 NVCs. He added that scrutinization would occur and security issues would be addressed in the coming months before national registration cards would be handed out.

Suu Kyi said that divisional progress should be tracked through practical gains, and that in order to issue NVCs, trust must first be gained by participants, citizens and the international community.

Lt-Col Kyaw Swe said in order for the NVC project to work, there must be mutual understanding as well as job opportunities available locally.

During the meeting, Arakan State Chief Minister Nyi Pu brought up social welfare, resettlement activities and recent natural disasters in several townships. Ye Aung, minister of border and security affairs, drew attention to over 140 requirements needed to address rural development in Arakan State’s townships.

At the conclusion of the meeting, State Counselor Suu Kyi stated that collaboration between the Union government and the Arakan state government was crucial for the quick implementation of development projects.

Various Union-level ministers, permanent secretaries, the attorney general and the Arakan State chief minister attended the meeting in Naypyidaw.