Rakhine a human rights crisis: Annan report

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The Kofi Annan commission on Thursday described the situation in Rakhine state as a ‘human rights crisis’ and came up with several recommendations to handle it in its final report.

”While all communities have suffered from violence and abuse, protracted statelessness and profound discrimination have made the Muslim community particularly vulnerable to human rights violations,” the final report of the Commission said.

Presented before the media at Yangon Sule Shangrila hotel on Thursday, the report said it had recommended a ‘clear timeline and strategy’ for citizenship verification process in Rakhine state.

It was presented to the President’s office on Tuesday.

”This strategy should be transparent, efficient and with a solid basis in existing legislation. The strategy should be discussed with representatives of the Rakhine and the Muslim communities and communicated through a broad outreach campaign,” the commission’s report said.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan outside the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre in Yangon. Photo AFP

It said the government should clarify the status of those who have not been granted citizenship.

”Like all countries, Myanmar will need a status for those who reside in the country without being citizens. The rights of those who live and work in Myanmar need to be regulated,” the report said.

It said that those whose citizenship status had been verified must enjoy all benefits of citizenship.

”This will not only strengthen the government’s rule-of-law agenda but will demonstrate the tangible benefits of the verification exercise,” the Annan committee’s final report said.

The commission was formed in September 2016 at the request of the Office of the State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in collaboration with the Kofi Annan Foundation, as a neutral and impartial body. It was mandated to address the severe and persistent challenges facing Rakhine State, particularly its low level of socio-economic development, the threats posed by inter-communal tensions, the issues of citizenship and freedom of movement, the infringement of human rights, and the lack of communal participation and representation.

The Commission has six Myanmar and three international members and is chaired by Kofi Annan.

Later Kofi Annan admitted during the media conference that tensions existed between the Myanmar government and the international community, especially in view of the ongoing military operations.

”But it should not lead to a standoff. It is possible to resolve the issues involved,” Mr. Annan said.

The former UN secretary general emphasized that the armed forces had a critical role to play.

Like all countries, Myanmar will need a status for those who reside in the country without being citizens. The rights of those who live and work in Myanmar need to be regulated

”It is important that the process of resolution avoids use of force, highly militarized responses are often counter-productive,” Annan said.

The final report put stress on human rights training for Myanmar security personnel and steps to monitor performance of security forces.

“We told the army chief today that the ongoing military operations should be limited in time and an overtly militaristic approach be avoided. The army chief assured us that the present operations were in the mountains (Mayu mountains) where the number of the civilian population was small,” Mr. Annan said.

Replying to questions from media Mr. Annan said he was optimistic that the recommendations of the Commission would be implemented.

”Daw Suu Kyi assured us today that inter-ministerial mechanisms would be put in place to implement the recommendations of the commission,” Kofi Annan said.

He debunked suggestions that the commission represented some form of ‘foreign interference’.

”It is a Myanmar commission; six members are from this country. Only three are foreigners and I have the great honour in heading it,” Mr. Annan said.

Asked if the commission had recommended priorities for the government, Mr. Annan said: ”We did not set any priorities. We leave the government to make the judgement. But the report makes it clear that the citizenship issue, freedom of movement and preservation of human rights are key issues.”

The Annan commission report asked the Myanmar government to work closely with Bangladesh to handle the crisis on the international border, what with reports of considerable Rohingya out-migration.

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