Suu Kyi-led Rakhine Development Agency Says UN Report ‘Intended to Harm’ Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 8 August 2019

YANGON—A statement from the public-private partnership program led by Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi ostensibly meant to rehabilitate conflict-torn Rakhine State “categorically rejects” the allegations of a recent UN fact-finding mission, which found that the program’s projects contributed to “the commission of crimes under international law.”

The UN report, released on Monday, stated that the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD), an umbrella program for infrastructure projects in northern Rakhine, acted to “consolidate the consequences of war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.”

After an attack from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on government security outposts in northern Rakhine in August 2017, the military launched clearance operations in the area that caused nearly 400,000 Rohingya to flee into nearby Bangladesh at the time. The international community has widely condemned the operations since as ethnic cleansing.

The UN report also listed 45 local companies that offered donations totaling more than $10 million (15.1 billion kyats) to the military for projects in northern Rakhine.

On Wednesday, UEHRD said the fact-finding mission “paints a distorted picture of the UEHRD, which was established to address the complex issues of Rakhine.”

“From its inception, UEHRD’s objectives were to provide effective humanitarian aid, to coordinate resettlement and rehabilitation efforts, and to promote conflict resolution and durable peace for all communities in Rakhine,” the statement read. “We have never wavered in our pursuit of humanitarian objectives and have worked consistently to improve conditions on the ground for the relief, dignified return, and resettlement of conflict-affected communities and displaced persons.”

UEHRD was formed to implement government policy in northern Rakhine State in response to the widespread international condemnation the country received over the military’s clearance operations in August 2017 there.

In addition to its stated aim of providing humanitarian assistance to violence-affected populations and facilitating the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh, UEHRD also formed an Infrastructure Development and Construction Task Force to renovate buildings and undertake new construction in partnership with private companies.

During a ceremony held in Naypyitaw on October 20, 2017, the owners of various companies pledged close to $13.5 million to UEHRD for reconstruction.

On Tuesday, the Myanmar government condemned the UN fact-finding mission’s report, calling it “an action intended to harm the interests of Myanmar and its people.”

The report also noted that there are nearly 60 foreign firms operating in Myanmar with business ties to the Tatmadaw; it urged the international community to impose sanctions on such companies.