Special Feature

Citizenship key to have better situation in Rakhine: Commission

31 Jan,2017


Special Report:

The visiting delegation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State on Tuesday said providing citizenship to and ensuring the dignity of Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State is the key to have a better situation there.

“Yes, this is the key to have a better situation there,” delegation leader Dr Ghassan Salame told reporter after a closed group discussion at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) in the afternoon.

Ghassan Salame, also former Lebanese Minister of Culture, came up with the remark when asked whether the Commission believes the problems will be over once Rohingya Muslims are granted citizenship.

He said Rakhine is the least developed, economically and technologically, State of Myanmar. “I think there are huge opportunities for everybody in the State the moment basic human rights and the rule of law are reestablished there for everybody.”

Responding to a question, Ghassan Salame, also former UN Special Adviser to Secretary-General, said he does not think that only religious elements that compelled to flee them from their motherland.

“This is not war of religion. There’re also other issues,” said the delegation leader adding that there are issues that people are deprived of their rights, there are issues related to ethnicities, freedom of movement, the rule of law and human rights.

Three other delegation members who attended the discussion are Chair of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Win Mra, Core Member and Founder of Religious for Peace, Myanmar Aye Lwin and Andreas Indregard.

The four-member delegation of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State has already visited two Rohingya camps in Ukhia and Teknaf upazilas of Cox’s Bazar on Sunday and listened to Myanmar nationals about the torture unleashed by the military of the Myanmar government on them.

International relations expert Prof Dr Imtiaz Ahmed who attended the discussion said there had been ‘clear discussions’ on citizenship issue. “We’ve constantly been saying for the last 20 years that they (Rohingyas) need to be granted citizenship.”

Responding to a question, Prof Imtiaz, also the Executive Director of Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS), said there is no doubt that the Commission has its integrity. “After many years, such a Commission has been formed. It’s a major step.”

He said the Rohingya issue has now become a global issue, and all need to wait until the report is submitted and published to see the outcome.

The visiting delegation will submit an evaluation report to Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi by August this year.

Asked whether the report will have any impact, Prof Imtiaz said there will be sort of impact, and the Myanmar government also shows a positive attitude towards the Commission. “But we need to see how the report will have impact and how quickly.”  

He hoped that the two countries would proceed towards better relations through the process.

Responding to another question, Prof Imtiaz said all people in a community cannot be terrorists.

The government of Myanmar, committed to finding lasting solutions to the complex and delicate issues in the Rakhine State, established the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministry of Office of the State-Counsellor and the Kofi Annan Foundation to that end.

Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, BIISS Chairman Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Dhaka University Prof Dr Syed Anwar Hossain, Executive Director, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) Prof Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, Executive Director, Research Initiative Bangladesh Prof Dr Meghna Guhathakurta, DU History Dept Prof Dr Mohammad Shah, DU International Relations Department Prof Dr Rashed uz Zaman, Brotee Executive Director Sharmeen Murshid, former Ambassador Ashfaqur Rahman, former Bangladesh Ambassador to Myanmar Maj Gen (retd) Anup Kumar Chakma, former Ambassador Maj Gen (retd) Shahedul Haque, former Ambassador to Myanmar Brig Gen (retd) Chowdhury Khalequzzaman, The Daily Star Associate Editor Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan, The Daily Observer Associate Editor Syed Badrul Ahsan and independent consultant Asif Munier were, among others, present.

Earlier, the delegation members had a meeting with Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali at State guesthouse Padma in the morning.

More than 30,000 registered Rohingyas are living in two camps in Cox’s Bazar, while about five lakh undocumented Rohingyas are living here.

Bangladesh is regularly expressing deep concern at the continued influx of Muslims from Rakhine into Bangladesh apart from tightening border deployment.

On December 29, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh Myo Myint Than demanded early repatriation of the entire Myanmar population staying in Bangladesh and expressed Dhaka’s readiness to engage with Myanmar to discuss the process and modalities of repatriation with Myanmar.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador in Dhaka Marcia Bernicat on Tuesday visited different registered and unregistered refugee camps in Teknaf and Ukhia upazilas of Cox’s Bazar.

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