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Arakan Commission to submit final report next week

FILE PHOTO: Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan (Photo: The United Nations)

One year after it began monitoring the inter-religious tensions between Muslims and Buddhists in Arakan State, the advisory commission led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will submit its final report to the Burmese government next week.

Dr Thar Hla Shwe, a member of the Arakan Advisory Commission (AAC), told DVB on Friday that Kofi Annan will fly in to Naypyidaw for the presentation of the report, which is currently being finalised in Geneva, and will meet with Burma’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The nine-member AAC was formed on 24 August last year under Suu Kyi’s instructions. But while rights groups such as Amnesty International welcomed the prospect of a high-level advisory board, many in Burma were opposed to the appointment of a commission that consisted of three foreigners: Annan: former Lebanese Minister Ghassan Salame; and former UNAIDS Special Advisor Laetitia van den Assum.

Following years of inter-communal tensions and frequent mob violence, the AAC was tasked with finding conflict-prevention measures; ensuring humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation; establishing basic infrastructure; and promoting long-term development plans.

During the past 12 months, the Commission has interviewed at least 1,000 people including Buddhists, Muslims, representatives of political parties, and coordinators of international aid groups. AAC members have also travelled to Thailand and Bangladesh to speak with those countries’ foreign ministers.

“The Commission has endeavoured to complete all its tasks,” said Dr Thar Hla Swe. “However, our report carries only suggestions and advice. We cannot overrule the Myanmar government.”

The advisory commission has already submitted a 15-page interim report to the government with 30 recommendations that the Burmese government could undertake immediately including points related to citizenship, humanitarian aid, border issues, and bilateral relationships with Bangladesh.

Tun Aung Kyaw, secretary of the Arakan National Party, told DVB that his party “does not trust 100 percent” in the AAC’s final report and that it had already lodged a complaint about the inclusion of foreigners in the Commission.

“The Arakan issue is not an international affair; it is a domestic issue,” he said. “However, our government wants it to be seen as an international issue.”