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Govt hits back at Rakhine commission rumours

Kofi Annan speaks at a forum in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in June. (Sia Kambou / AFP)
By Nyan Hlaing Lynn 
August 29, 2016

NAY PYI TAW — The government of Myanmar is underwriting the entire cost of its proposed Advisory Committee on Rakhine State, a spokesman said on Monday, in response to rumours spread on social media that the body would be funded by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.

U Zaw Htay, a spokesman for State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, added that committee chair Kofi Annan, a former United Nations secretary-general, was working on a voluntary basis and would not be remunerated by either the Myanmar government or foreign donors.

“There is no foreign financial aid for the commission. Kofi Annan’s work is purely voluntary and at the request of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The Myanmar government is bearing all the expenses for the Rakhine Commission,” he told Frontier.

He added that the program and expenses of the committee would be managed by the National Peace and Reconciliation Centre, the successor to the former government’s Myanmar Peace Centre, which is also charged with managing the country’s delicate peace process.

Announced on August 24, the committee will have 12 months to prepare a report on humanitarian, human rights and development issues to the government. Its first meeting will be held on September 5.

In recent years, Buddhist hardliners in Myanmar have railed against what they allege to be an effort by the OIC to undermine the traditions of the country’s Buddhist majority.

Plans for the OIC to open a representative office in 2012 were abandoned after protests, which also dogged subsequent visits by OIC officials.

In 2014, chapters of the Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha called for a boycott of Ooredoo, which was then preparing to enter the local market, after alleging the Qatari-based telecommunications company was affiliated with the OIC.

Speaking at a Friday press conference at the Ministry of Information building in Nay Pyi Taw, U Zaw Htay told journalists the committee was vital to brokering a peaceful settlement in Rakhine State, where more than 100,000 people remain displaced after an outbreak of communal violence in 2012.

Zaw Htay noted that the committee had a purely advisory role and would implement any recommendations in line with existing laws, including the 1982 Citizenship Law.

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