Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan assured residents of Myanmar he is not in the country to police human rights violations, but instead to recommend solutions to ease tensions between Buddhists and the Muslim minority.
“We are not here as inspectors, as policemen,” he told a news conference Thursday in Yangon. “We are here to help at the request of the government and we see this as a Myanmar Commission that we are participating in, bringing some international dimensions and you will get an honest report from all of us.”
Ghanaian-born Annan was met by hundreds of jeering protesters when he arrived in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state earlier this week as part of a nine-member panel on a fact-finding mission into the bitter ethnic and religious strife that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.
The protesters were gathered outside the airport in the capital city of Rakhine, where they voiced anger over what they see as foreign meddling in their internal affairs.
Annan said he was not upset by the protests, and in fact admired them as a show of democracy and freedom of expression.
“I think it was a healthy sign that the people felt they should make their views known in their own way,” he said.
The special advisory committee, made up of six of Myanmar and three foreigners (none of whom are Muslim), is charged with finding solutions on ending the crisis that began in 2012, when fighting broke out between majority Buddhist nationalists and minority Rohingya Muslims.
More than 100 people were killed, while as many as 120,000 Rohingyas are currently languishing in squalid displaced persons camps, where their movements are severely restricted.