Rakhine board member speaks out on Richardson’s criticism

Rakhine board member Mr Roelof Petrus Meyer from South Africa. Photo: Mizzima

Following the high profile resignation of a US diplomat from the Rakhine crisis advisory board who had harsh words for Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, an advisory board member has made a statement to attempt to clarify the board’s progress and respond to the criticism.

US diplomat Mr Bill Richardson released a statement and spoke with the media expression criticism of Suu Kyi’s handling of the Rakhine crisis and what he said was her anger over him raising concerns over the two jailed Reuters journalists.

Speaking today at a press conference, Rakhine board member Mr Roelof Petrus Meyer from South Africa discussed progress and said he spoke on behalf of the board.

The following is an edited version of his statement made at the press conference:

I’m Roelof Petrus Meyer from South Africa. I am part of the advisory board that was appointed in December. We have nine colleagues and people are appointed. We had our first engagement this week. I’m making this statement on behalf of the board that is agreed by everybody.

On US diplomat Paul Richardson’s statement

Obviously he didn’t check with us before he made that statement. I think it’s very unfortunate he didn’t join most of our proceedings since two days ago. In any case, it was not the intention of the advisory board to make a final conclusion this week. It was like an orientation visit we made. In terms of reference, it is very clear that it is about giving advice to the implementation of the Kofi Annan report. I think Mr Richardson is in a bit hurry to make that statement. I think it’s unfair. The statement is not legitimate.

Our task would be to give honest advice. Over the terms of the reference, to try to make a contribution to resolve the problems in Rakhine State. We’ve made it clear that we believe it is possible to resolve it. We can’t respond on behalf of the government.

On confidence about whether the government will listen to the advisory board

I have the impression so far that they are listening. Our impression so far is that they are serious. We would like to press for the engagement. We think it is in the interest of everybody concerned as well as the communities.

On the Rohingya citizenship issue

It is a complicated issue. We will not find an easy solution for it. The advisory board has to make further engagement and see what is the best solution in terms of the whole process  of citizenship verification.

On Advisory Board’s credibility being lost because of Mr Richardson’s resignation

Not at all. I think it is clear from the start that we are raising in the last paragraph the recommendations that we are quite serious. We are in fact very serious. Mr Richardson was making his comment too early. It is very unfortunate in that regard. It’s has no legitimacy in that statement. Obvious he said that far too early.

On Repatriation Centre conditions

We just made one visit yesterday and it is not possible to make a final conclusion but from what we have seen, it would make it possible for people to come back. It’s clear that they have made an effort.

The purpose of our engagement is to find a solution for Rakhine State.

Humanitarian support or aid is required. It has to be made available. Secondly, the media should get the access. We are encouraging that.

UN and international bodies’ participation is necessary and the problems won’t go away even with the national support.

From what we observed, yes. The facilities are there. It’s important to encourage the people to come back.

It is very difficult for us to say but from our general observation, it is possible. The security will be provided. People should not be scared to come back.

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