In response to the launch of the Rakhine Commission report, Army Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing met with the Commission’s Chair Kofi Annan. The following is the statement released by the Commander-in Chief’s office after their meeting.
“The issue of Rakhine State is of interested to all. In accord with the Myanmar saying which goes “Make a record durable and reliable” written records are more profound. They should be correct and flaw-free. As the Tatmadaw is always taking into account and reviewing the issue of Rakhine region, a suggestion is given to reexamine the discussions and point out and make amendments if there are any factual errors and unfair attitudes, said Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at his meeting with Mr. Kofi Annan, Chairman of Rakhine State Advisory Commission and party, at Bayintnaung Parlour here this morning.
At the meeting, Mr. Kofi Annan said the commission was formed a year ago to alleviate the conflicts and tensions through suggestions after studying and reviewing the incidents of Rakhine State. During the 12 months, talks were held in Rakhine State, Yangon, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Geneva. The commission studied and listened to the voices in all seriousness to know the true nature of the issue. The commission in its report advises on achieving social progress, encouraging investments and ensuring basic services in Rakhine State. The main points include the citizenship verification, the issuance of national registration cards and the alleviation of tensions and restoring reconciliation through bilateral talks between the communities. The report also deals with the border security, bilateral cooperation with Bangladesh and anti-drug activities.
The Senior General in his response said the commission report has already been read. It is understood that the duty of the commission is to solve and overcome the problems in Rakhine State through suggestions. As the suggestions need correct data, historical facts were explained objectively in the previous meetings. Advice was given to thoroughly study the issue from all sides. As the commission’s report is official, it will have impacts to a certain degree.
Because of the time and movement limitations, it is assumed that the commission could not get perfect data and facts. Unfortunately, some factual flaws and deficiencies are found in the report.
In discussing the Myanmar Citizenship Law 1982, the Senior General said as it is an existing law, citizenship process must go in line with that law. Even in the UN general provisions, a person needs to register to become a citizen. Therefore, all Bengalis in Rakhine State need to register. The NVC is a basic requirement for accessing whether the Bengalis should become citizens or whether they should be granted citizenship. Only then, can processes for religion, race and citizenship continue. Those who could not be identified have to be restricted, while those who could be identified have been allowed to live freely.
As to the deployment of many security forces, security affairs have to go step by step together with the rule of law, security and defence. Regarding the rule law, the situation of Buthidaung-Maungtaw could not be controlled by administrative bodies and ordinary police forces. That is why border guard police forces have been assigned security duties. Currently, Section 144 is imposed in that region. Tatmadaw troops had to get involved as the situation worsened in the aftermath of terrorist acts in October 2016.
At present also, there are cases in which local residents are killed, injured or go missing. Preemptive measures are required to control the situation and to prevent worsening and more violent attacks. Military supply camps and military exercises of the Bengalis were discovered onthe Mayu Mountain. The Tatmadaw has to intervene as the situation reaches the level of defence. The Tatmadaw has the duty to defend and protect the lives and property of the people. The national races are the first priority and all the citizens of the country must be safeguarded.
As for security affairs, Mr. Kofi Annan asked about the measures taken 2012 and the Tatmadaw’s activities after the situation was under control and ongoing situations. The Senior General said in the incident of 2012, it was resolved after a meeting of the National Defence and Security Council was called under the leadership of the President. However, security has not been assured in the current situation. There are reports that some armed groups have arrived on the border of the other country. The operations on Mayu Mountain have not finished.
They are necessary until the local people are safe and sound. The operations of troops started after the October attacks in 2016 and halted in January 2017. They have to go there again following the new incidents. These operations must be decided depending on the situation of the region, said the Senior General.
Then, Mr. Kofi Annan asked about no permission for media teams and the organizations which provide humanitarian aid to pay visits to the refugee camps depending on security measures. The Senior General said media teams were allowed to pay visits there. They need to express true information. The Tatmadaw participates in tasks of humanitarian aid. However, it is necessary to consider that those items of humanitarian aid were found at military training camps of terrorists. If those living at refugee camps and taking foods are committing deterioration of stability, they must be designated as those who help terrorism. It needs to take responsibilities for providing assistance to the refugees while the refugees need to take responsibilities to accept scrutiny. It is necessary to insert the cases of Bengalis who did not accept scrutiny into the report.
With regard to the learning opportunities of Bengalis, the Senior General explained many schools had been opened in Buthidaung and Maungtaw regions under the management of Rakhine State authorities. However, religion leaders did not let Bengalis pursue education for various reasons. Many Bengalis from Buthidaung and Maungtaw are learning education at universities in Sittway. After conducting scrutiny over them under the Myanmar Citizenship Law 1982, they will have many opportunities such as education and health under the law.
Afterwards, the Senior General gave his review and advice over the report of the commission, saying that the commission needs to overview attitudes of the government, the Tatmadaw and the local people. Acceptance of local Rakhine ethnics over the commission’s report is of importance. If Rakhine ethnics do not accept it, it will face difficulty to solve the problems. The Senior General said it is not meant to compile the report with bias, but it needs to be done fairly.”