Friday, September 22, 2017

Rakhine party to shun international dialogue

The Rakhine National Party will boycott international organisations it believes are biased in favour of Muslims, party chair U Aye Maung told The Myanmar Times last week. He also accused the United Nations of interfering in Myanmar’s internal affairs over the issue of inter-communal violence.

Protesters wait for Yanghee Lee in Sittwe on January 8. Photo: Than Tun (Sittwe)Protesters wait for Yanghee Lee in Sittwe on January 8. Photo: Than Tun (Sittwe)

Since the first outbreak of violence in 2012, Rakhine people have cooperated with local and international organisations, said U Aye Maung, including UN special rapporteur for human rights Tomas Quintana and his successor, Yanghee Lee.

But Ms Lee’s latest visit to Rakhine State on January 8-10 was the final straw, the Amyotha Hluttaw representative said.

He said Ms Lee had spent most of her trip meeting the Muslim community and during her one meeting with Rakhine leaders she had urged them to accept the state’s Muslims as citizens.

“They never listened to our concerns, but only paid attention to the other side. They issued biased reports,” he said.

International representatives visiting Rakhine met with local people “just for show”, he said. “They take photos of themselves with us to show how fair they are. But we’re just the backdrop. That’s why we decided to sever relations with all international organisations,” he said.

On January 13, the party formally conveyed its decision to Rakhine State Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn. Meanwhile, the RNP urged local residents, including monks, to boycott international organisations operating in the state. The party – which holds a majority of elected seats in the Rakhine State Hluttaw, as well as 14 Rakhine State-based seats in the national parliament – has instructed its members to shun their meetings and projects.

U Aye Maung accused Ms Lee of trying to pressure Myanmar into complying with UN resolutions urging Myanmar to offer “full citizenship to the Rohingya community”.

The government responded by reiterating its stance that there are no “Rohingya” people in Myanmar – it refers to them as Bengalis – and that citizenship issues should be resolved in accordance with the 1982 Citizenship Law.

U Aye Maung said his party and local people believe the UN is trying to interfere in Myanmar’s internal issues. “We don’t accept their resolution, but we do agree to grant citizenship to those eligible under the 1982 law,” he said.

On her second tour of Myanmar, Ms Lee travelled to Rakhine State to assess whether conditions had changed since her first visit, in July 2014. She was greeted at Sittwe airport by hundreds of demonstrators, who had waited throughout the afternoon for her delayed flight to arrive.

On January 10, she met with local people and authorities at the Emergency Coordination Centre – a body comprising representatives of the government, Rakhine civil society and international NGOs – to urge them to respect the human rights of people living in displaced persons camps.

“She wants us to live together with the Muslims peacefully and to work freely with them. But we told her it would be impossible right away. It needs more time,” said Sittwe township elder U Than Tun, adding that local residents had urged Ms Lee to issue a “fair” report.