Myanmar’s government has set up an advisory panel headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to find “lasting solutions” to the conflict in Rakhine state, where human rights groups have documented widespread abuses against the minority Rohingya Muslims.
A statement yesterday by the office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said an agreement will be signed between her office and the Kofi Annan Foundation to set up a nine-member advisory commission to resolve “protracted issues in the region.”
The council will comprise three international and six national experts.
Rohingya Muslims have lived in the northwestern state of Rakhine for generations but are denied citizenship because they are considered outsiders.
More than 100 people, mostly Rohingya, were killed in clashes with members of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority in 2012. Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled in rickety boats to seek refuge in other Southeast Asian countries, and many have perished in the perilous journeys or fallen victim to human traffickers.
Many displaced Rohingya are now sheltering in refugee camps within the country in squalid conditions with little medical care.
In a reflection of how sensitive the Rohingya issue is, the statement did not name the community in the entire text, only describing it as “the complex and delicate issues in the Rakhine state.”
The closest it came to acknowledging the Rohingya was by saying that the commission will “examine international aspects of the situation, including the background of those seeking refugee status abroad.”
It said the commission will “consider humanitarian and development issues, access to basic services, the assurance of basic rights, and the security of the people of Rakhine.” The commission will make recommendations on conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation, institution building and promotion of development of Rakhine state.
The commission will submit its findings and recommendations within 12 months of its establishment. The recommendations will be given to Suu Kyi, who holds the dual titles of state counselor and foreign minister.
She is barred by the constitution from becoming president, but for all intent and purposes has been the country’s leader since her party won elections in November 2015 and replaced a quasi-civilian government controlled by the military.
Kofi Annan was the UN chief from 1997 to 2006, when he was replaced by Ban Ki-moon. He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations in 2001.