Friday, August 18, 2017

Rakhine commission releases interim report

In its first report, the investigation commission on Rakhine yesterday denied “external” allegations of abuses related to the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign in the restive northern state. The interim report was released on the same day as the Ministry of Home Affairs announced eight police officers have been detained in connection to a video showing brutality against villagers, and just after the State Counsellor’s Office released a notice about retributive killings in Rakhine.

After a “special investigation” that included a field visit, the commission found that the, “Bengali population residing in Maungtaw region, the increasing population of Mawlawi, mosques and religious edifices are proof that there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution in the region [sic].”

It also said there was “insufficient evidence to take legal action” over women’s claims of having been raped.

The 13 member commission headed by Vice President U Myint Swe, a former military intelligence chief, is due to file a concluding report by the end of the month. The commission was appointed to investigate the cause of the lethal attacks on border guard posts and to provide recommendations for preventing future violence.

The interim report blamed the recent unrest on foreign-funded “extremists” with an intention to harm state sovereignty, and to “instigate the people”.

Over 50,000 people, believed to be mostly Muslim Rohingya, have fled to Bangladesh since security personnel began “clearance operations” in October. Access to the area has been heavily restricted, with humanitarian groups blocked from providing aid to over 130,000 people, including children thought to have severe malnutrition.

However, the commission’s report noted that while the whole state is poor, “No cases of malnutrition were found in the area, due to the area’s favourable fishing and farming conditions.”

On the same day as the release of the interim report, the Ministry of Home Affairs said eight police officers have now been arrested in connection with a widely circulated video clip showing security personnel railing on seated villagers. The ministry said legal action will be taken against those found to have violated police discipline.

According to the State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee, 19 Muslim villagers have been killed by violent attackers since October 4. Many of the deceased were found to have cooperated with government officials.

Just ahead of the commission’s release, on January 3, the Rakhine State Stability and Development Committee convened a meeting in Nay Pyi Taw.

“It is important that the problems are resolved in a correct manner, and that accusations are refuted with the truth,” said committee chair Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.