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Burma’s Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing pulled no punches when he met with Arakan Commission chairman Kofi Annan yesterday, at least according to the senior-general’s own account of their meeting, posted on Facebook today.
The army chief received former UN Secretary-General Annan in Naypyidaw on Thursday morning, ahead of the Ghanaian diplomat’s meeting with President Htin Kyaw, and a later press conference in Rangoon where he called for cooperation among neighbouring countries to address tensions between Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan State.
If Annan was in any doubt on which side of the fence Burma’s commander-in-chief sat, he was soon made aware, according to Min Aung Hlaing’s post.
While referring to the inter-religious tensions as “a delicate matter”, the senior-general said he advised the former UN chief and his fellow commissioners to study the history of the issue.
Min Aung Hlaing then told Annan that the Arakan region became a British colony after the loss of the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824, following which, in 1886, Britain conquered the entire country.
“The colonists brought in Bengalis from Bengal to grow rice” and their population gradually rose, he explained. However, despite the group’s attempt to change its name to “Rohingya”, their language, costumes and culture remain the same as people from Bangladesh.
“They are much different from Myanmar people,” he told the Arakan Commission chairman, and are “not an indigenous people of Myanmar”.
Min Aung Hlaing supposedly went on to describe atrocities by the “Bengalis” against the “native Rakhines”, or Arakanese.
At no point – it seems by his own words – did the army chief address the mob violence in recent years, nor any attacks or lynching of Rohingyas or Muslims.
Min Aung Hlaing said that he pointed out the increase in the population of the Rohingya Muslim community, noting: “Despite the country’s practice of monogamy, they failed to follow it, and their population grew due to their practice of polygamy.”
He added that the members of this group would only be granted Burmese citizenship if they meet legal requirements.
“Mr. Kofi Annan, for his part, expressed thanks for letting him know such a history and helping him envisage the future,” the post concluded.
On his Twitter feed, Kofi Annan tweeted: “Good and constructive exchange with Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief in Naypyidaw today.”