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The hardline Arakan National Party (ANP) has called for the newly formed Arakan Commission, headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to be dissolved, calling its mandate “unacceptable”.
The nine-member Commission – made up of three international members and six from Burma – was established by the Burmese government on Wednesday, giving it a mandate to assess and make recommendations on resolving the situation in the volatile Arakan region, also known as Rakhine, where Buddhists and Muslims clashed in fierce episodes of mob violence in 2012.
The ANP promptly released a statement the following day, asserting that the creation of the commission led by foreigners with no background knowledge and capacity to understand the circumstances in western Burma would undermine the rights of all ethnic people in Burma and the nation’s sovereignty.
“The Arakanese people know best when it comes to the issues in Arakan State. Having a commission led by foreigners to deal with our problems is against diplomatic principles, as well as domestic procedures,” said the party’s Central Committee member Oo Hla Saw.
The ANP statement slammed the National League for Democracy-led government for prioritising the very delicate issue of “Bengalis” – the controversial term for the Muslim Rohingya community – instead of focusing on peace and development, and ethnic unity.
“We are an election-winning party representing the people of Arakan State – we have elected members in the parliament,” said Thursday’s party statement. “By going ahead and forming a commission without gauging the opinion of the Arakan people and our MPs is acting above democratic principles, and is therefore unacceptable to us.”
The Commission is made up of three foreign members – Kofi Annan; Ghassan Salame, the former Lebanese Minister of Culture and UN Special Advisor to Secretary-General; and Laetitia van den Assum, the former Special Advisor to UNAIDS and Netherlands’ Ambassador to the United Kingdom – and six Burmese, including Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Chairman Win Mra; Aye Lwin, the founder of interfaith group Religious for Peace, Myanmar; and Saw Khin Tint, the chairperson of the Rangoon-based Rakhine Literature and Culture Association and vice-chair of the Rakhine Women Association.