Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rakhine Commission’s report due March 31, four months late

An investigation commission set up to probe outbreaks of communal violence in Rakhine State is going to submit its final report by the end of March, four months later than originally planned.

Commission secretary and spokesperson Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing told The Myanmar Times last week that the commission has confirmed that it will submit its final report to the President’s Office by March 31.

“We are editing the report but it is very long at about 50 pages,” Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing said. “We are paying close attention to accuracy of the report,” he said.

The President’s Office announced the formation of the 27-member committee on August 17 last year. In addition to exposing the causes of the incidents that occurred in Rakhine State in May and June, the report was also supposed to make suggestions for what should be done in the future. It was supposed to be filed by November 16.

The commission’s members include leaders of the country’s four main religions, as well as politicians, civil society activists and journalists.

However, the commission was not able to submit its final report and only filed an interim report to the President’s Office on November 17. The interim report was not made public and Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing said he was unsure if the finished report would be publicly available.

“It depends on the President’s Office whether this report will be publicised. I think it will be impossible to publish it in state-run newspapers like has been done with other reports because it’s too long.

“But I can’t really be sure how the report will be used.”

However, he said the commission planned to hold a press conference to release a statement after submitting the report to President U Thein Sein.

“We will provide information to the media concerning what we did in writing the report and what facts were included as soon as possible,” he added.

Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing said the March 12 release of the report on the Letpadaung conflict between security forces and villagers in Monya showed that there is room to release such documents to the public. He added that releasing the reports publicly was a good way to elicit feedback from the public and international community.

He added that the commission expected considerable interest in its report both domestically and internationally.

“It is not easy to make everyone be satisfied with the commission’s findings. Our duties are to investigate the issue and give recommendation based on our findings.

“We have struggled to finish our tasks successfully amid a number of challenges,” Dr Kyaw Yin Hlaing said.

“We will give advice in the report that we believe to be in the best interest of the state and people, especially in terms or ensuring lasting peace in Rakhine State in the long term,” he said.

Commission member Dr Aye Maung, who is also chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and an Amyotha Hluttaw representative, said he had not been been able to “fully participate” in the commission’s activities.

“I haven’t read the final report yet,” he said.

“I think the commission should give advice as best as it can. Most importantly, the report must be an administrative mechanism, and communities need to accept the report and be willing to implement its findings and recommendations.

“Moreover, it is important that the commission’s recommendations be possible to implement or the report will only be worth the paper it’s written on,” he said.

Commission member Dr Hla Tun, secretary of Thanantara Dhammapalaka (Hindu) Association, said he was satisfied with the commission’s work.

“I think the commission’s report must be fair for all,” he added.

More than 200 people, both Buddhist and Muslim, lost their lives in outbreaks of communal violence that wracked Rakhine State between May and October, government data shows.

More than 16,000 houses, 45 mosques, 14 monasteries and three schools were burnt or destroyed and more than 70,000 people remain in refugee camps.

The government has tried to maintain peace and stability in the state, with the last outbreak of violence more than four months ago, commission members said Rakhine State is still unstable.

“Section 144 [martial law and curfew] is still in force in Rakhine State,” said Dr Aye Maung.