Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan arrived in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon on Saturday after he was selected to chair a newly-formed commission set up to advise the government on resolving conflicts in western Rakhine State.
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi formed the high-level commission last month with the aim of finding lasting solutions to “complex and delicate issues” in Rakhine — home to around 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims.
Commission member Khin Saw Tint, who also serves as chairperson of the Rakhine Literature and Culture Association and vice-chairperson of the Rakhine Women Association, told Anadolu Agency on Saturday that Annan will convene the body’s first meeting Monday.
According to media reports citing State Counselor’s office spokesman Zaw Htay, Annan will also hold a meeting with fellow Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi in the National Reconciliation and Peace Center in Yangon on Monday.
“Then the commission will visit Rakhine State on Tuesday and Wednesday,” said Khin Saw Tint, adding that Annan is due to meet Buddhist and Muslim community leaders in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe.
Rakhine, one of the poorest regions in Myanmar, has seen a series of communal violence since mid-2012 between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims — described by the UN as among the world’s most persecuted minority groups.
Nearly 100 people have been killed and some 100,000 displaced in camps in the state, which houses a majority of the country’s Rohingya population — whom nationalists do not see as Myanmar nationals, rather interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi’s Ministry of the State Counselor’s Office and the Kofi Annan Foundation — named after the former UN secretary-general who serves as its chairman — signed an agreement late last month to form the nine-member Advisory Commission.
“The commission will also have a meet with Rakhine politicians, especially from Arakan National Party [ANP],” Khin Saw Tint said by phone Saturday.
However, the ANP — a powerful Rakhine nationalist party that won the majority of seats in the state in last year’s election — has said they would refuse to meet the commission.
“No, we have no such plan [to meet the commission],” ANP chairman Aye Maung was quoted as saying by the Mizzima Daily digital newspaper Friday.
Since her party’s victory in the Nov. 8 election, Suu Kyi has been placed under tremendous international pressure to solve problems faced by Rohingya but has had to play a careful balancing act for fear of upsetting the country’s nationalists, many of whom have accused Muslims of trying to eradicate the country’s Buddhist traditions.
Suu Kyi has, however, enforced the notion that the root of many of the impoverished region’s problems are economic, and is encouraging investment in the area, which in turn the National League for Democracy hopes will lead to reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.