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Myanmar delegation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State arrives in Dhaka

(Photo: The Daily Star)

January 28, 2017

To discuss Rohingya issue with Bangladesh officials, visit Cox's Bazar

A three-member Myanmarese delegation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State arrives in Dhaka today to hold discussions with Bangladesh authorities over the Rohingya issue.

The delegation will also visit shelters where Rohingyas from Myanmar took shelter to escape a "counter-insurgency operation" in the country by its military.

Diplomatic sources said the delegation, during its four-day stay in Bangladesh, would visit two Rohingya shelters in Cox's Bazar to witness the plight of 65,000 Rohingya refugees who entered Bangladesh recently and joined thousands of others who had done the same years ago. 

The Myanmar government established the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, also known as Rakhine Commission, to discover lasting solutions to complex and delicate issues in the Rakhine State.

In another development, sources at the foreign ministry and the UN office in Dhaka said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will arrive in Bangladesh near the end of February to visit shelters in Bangladesh where the Myanmar nationals took shelter amid persecution, killing, rape and ethnic cleansing in their homeland.

The nine-member Advisory Commission, composed of three international and six national persons of eminence, is Myanmar's national initiative to resolve protracted issues in the region. The commission is chaired by former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.

According to the foreign ministry sources, the delegation members are Win Mra, chair of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; Aye Lwin, core member and founder of Religious for Peace Myanmar; and Ghassan Salame', former Lebanese minister of culture (2000- 2003) and UN special advisor to the secretary-general (2003-2006).

The delegation will also hold talks with government officials to discuss enduring solutions to the longstanding issues in Rakhine state of Myanmar.

During the meetings, Bangladesh will ask Myanmar to take back all registered and unregistered Rohingyas living in Bangladesh for many years since the Rohingyas are citizens of Myanmar and it is Myanmar's responsibility to resolve the problems in the country's Rakhine state, the sources said.

The delegation will be reminded of the past agreements signed between the two countries including the one in 1992 when Myanmar agreed to take back the Rohingyas admitting that the Rohingyas are legal citizens of Myanmar, they added.

A foreign ministry official said Bangladesh wants a solution to the Rohingya issue and it already expressed readiness to engage with Myanmar for discussing the process and modalities of repatriation of the Myanmar nationals.

The number of undocumented Myanmar nationals staying illegally in Bangladesh has long been a sticking point between the two countries, with Bangladesh repeatedly asking for repatriation of an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Rohingyas.

This figure is in addition to some 32,000 registered Rohingyas who are staying in Bangladesh for over two decades.

According to Myanmar government websites, the Myanmar government formed the nine-member Advisory Commission as a "neutral and impartial body" with an aim to propose concrete measures for improving the welfare of all people in Rakhine state.

The commission is to meet with all relevant stakeholders, international experts and foreign dignitaries to hear their views and to analyze relevant issues with a view to finding the best possible solutions to prevailing problems. 

The commission will consider humanitarian and development issues, access to basic services, the assurance of basic rights, and the security of the people of Rakhine. The commission will undertake assessments and make recommendations by focusing on conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation, institution building and promotion of development of Rakhine State.

It will also examine international aspects of the situation, including the background of those seeking refugee status abroad. After wide consultations, the commission will submit its findings and recommendations to the Myanmar government through the state counsellor in the second half of 2017 and thereafter publish its report within twelve months of its establishment in August 2016.

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