Burma Times Correspondent: October 20, 2015
A government initiative to open up a dialogue process between Rakhine and Rohingya community leaders in Yangon has drawn criticism from the Muslim community who allege this is just an eye wash for the regime’s new found friends in the Western hemisphere.
Sources say around 30 Rohingya representatives and a similar number of Rakhine leaders were flown into Yangon last week to attend dialogue on how to mend relations between the two communities. The initiative is expected to show Western countries that the government is taking measures to ensure long term harmony in the restive state.
But locals say the 20 men and 10 women chosen for this dialogue are labourers for an Akyab based construction company and have no experience in politics. They have been literally forced by the government to pretend they are community leaders. Also they are identifying themselves as Bengalis, much to the ire of the Akyab Rohingyas. Many in Myanmar, including the government has long argued there is no race called the Rohingya, the term being coined by Bengali settlers in Arakan.
Following the ascent of reform minded president Thein Sein, relations with Western countries have undergone a dramatic transformation as many scurry to exploit business opportunities in the resource rich country of Myanmar. While western governments notably the US has stressed the regime wants to open up a democratic chapter in Myanmar, many rights activists have criticised the warming up of relations stressing there is much left to be undone.
As a result of the new diplomatic chapter, the government has been keen to be seen as a benevolent power trying to smooth relations between the Rakhine and the Rohingya.