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Kofi Annan commission and gross human rights violations in Myanmar

By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
March 23, 2017

KOFI Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, recently released an interim report in his capacity as the head of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi, state counselor and foreign minister of Myanmar, constituted last September the commission to propose concrete measures to end tensions and improve the welfare of all people in the northwestern state of Rakhine. This move was apparently aimed at reducing the global pressure on her government over the atrocities being perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims in the restive state. By this act, she also wanted to divert attention from the criticism leveled against her personally.

It is a well-known fact that the entire world stood by her when she was put under house arrest by the military junta, when it ruled the country with an iron fist. Myanmar had remained isolated from the rest of the world for more than half a century during the military rule. Succumbing to the global pressure, the junta released her from the captivity and subsequently she became the leader of the country and her party, the National League for Democracy, which won a landslide victory 2015 elections. However, Suu Kyi has so far done nothing to halt the killing, driving out of homes and other gross human rights violations being committed against the Rohingya Muslims.

It was not expected that Annan would take over this suspicious and mysterious mission at the expense of his reputation and credibility especially when taking into account the fact that the commission was established by the Myanmar government to mislead and deceive the world. Is there any justification for the creation of such a panel by those who continue committing crimes against humanity and bless the ethnic cleansing and genocide being carried out against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country? These atrocities are being perpetrated not secretively but in broad daylight since long time. The global bodies like the United Nations and the rights bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch are fully aware of the gravity of these crimes.

Several prominent international figures also came out heavily against the persecution of the unarmed Rohingya people. South African bishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu is one among them. Addressing the Rohingya conference in Oslo earlier, Tutu said: “In the wake of the continuous persecution being meted out to the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, we have a responsibility toward them through enabling them to restore their stripped citizenship and securing their fundamental human rights.” He described the plight of the Rohingya as one of the most enduring human rights crises on the earth.

Addressing the Oslo conference, prominent philanthropist and business tycoon George Soros said the greatest threat facing democracy in Myanmar is the hostility toward Rohingya and the deprivation of their fundamental rights. The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, also came out in support of these persecuted minorities. He urged Suu Kyi to grant the Rohingya their fundamental rights. All these global figures and many others know well about the atrocities being perpetrated by the Buddhist extremists against these hapless people. They have been killed, driven out of their homes, their homes and mosques set on fire with the clandestine blessings of the authorities. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine in order to escape death. Many of them perished in the sea while attempting to reach neighboring countries. Several human traffickers were also involved in the perilous journey of the Rohingya boat people.

Anybody, who examines the preface of the interim report of Annan, can easily understand that he has played the role of a false witness while reviewing the situation in Rakhine. In his statement, he never uttered the word Rohingya even at a single time. By which apparently he fulfills the desire of the Myanmar authorities, including the Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, who is supposed to have received this prestigious prize for defending democracy and the human rights.

It is interesting to note that the first word of Annan in a press conference, held a few days ago to release the interim report of the Commission, was that the situation in Rakhine state after Oct. 9, 2016 was different from the situation that prevailed before that date. His statement showed as if he has come to help resolve a minor problem between two factions of people who are equal in their rights and duties. He forgot or pretended to forget that the problem is much deeper and complex than he attempted to portray. The problem of Rohingya in Rakhine is the problem of around 1.5 million persecuted Muslims who have been living for several centuries. Now, there have been deliberate attempts to drive them out of this state through killing, displacement and intimidation.

According to an earlier report of the UN, the Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted minority in the world. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh as well as to Makkah. Recently, several others fled to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Their desperate flight is the best example for the severity of persecution being meted out to them in their homeland.

The problem of Rohingya Muslims cannot be solved simply through formation of a commission by the Myanmar authorities who themselves are accountable for the creation of this very problem. The authorities tried and continue trying to put an end to this problem through liquidating these hapless people through ethnic cleansing or genocide. It is very unfortunate that these atrocities are being perpetrated unabatedly even after Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory. Now, the soldiers and the security forces have become the culprits in the killing, rape and expulsion. After all this, Annan comes and openly declares that the ongoing gross violation of the human rights does not come in the purview of the mandate entrusted on him and his team.

In such a scenario, what is the minimum thing expected from him by the international community is to demand the constitution of an international impartial commission to carry out probe into the killing, rape, ethnic cleansing, and other gross human rights violations being committed in Rakhine by the Myanmar authorities.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at

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