‘Gimmick’ Rakhine committee set up

A new commission set up by Myanmar to investigate itself over the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine State has been dismissed as a gimmick by international observers.

The government said this week that an independent commission of inquiry would be established but gave no details of its powers or timescale.

The military attacked the already depleted Muslim community after August 25 last year, causing around 700,000 refugees to flee over the border into Bangladesh.

The “clearances” were in response to what the authorities claimed were coordinated attacks from a previously unknown group called the “Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army”.

Little is known about the group but its reported actions have been used by the government to justify its bloody campaign.

In an opinion piece, The Nation in Thailand made a distinction between the Thai junta, which seized power in 2014, and the Burmese military; which took power in 1962 and has retained control ever since, despite going through the process of holding an election in 2015.

The Bangkok paper opined: “The junta in Thailand has moved closer to Myanmar and thus retains influence with Nay Pyi Taw. The Thai government, elected or not, needs to keep in mind the atrocities committed against the Rohingya by its counterparts over the border.

“The junta should not be blinded by its new-found friendship with a Myanmar administration that, despite its democratic façade, is still overseen by hardline generals who have no qualms about allowing their soldiers to rape and kill ethnic groups so they can gain access to the valuable resources on their land.”

Yangon-based analyst David Mathieson called the new commission a “political gimmick”.

“Given the weight of evidence collected by Amnesty International, the UN and the media, this CoI [commission of inquiry] is tantamount to a rude gesture, not a genuine inquiry,” he said. It would only “collide with a military covering up ethnic cleansing”, Mathieson added.

The new commission is due to include former Philippine deputy foreign minister Rosario Manalo, Japan’s former UN representative Kenzo Oshima, the former chair of Myanmar’s constitutional tribunal Mya Thein and Aung Tun Thet, who leads the government’s Rohingya crisis committee.

After a constitutional change by the Burmese generals in 1982, the Rohingya have systematically had their rights removed as the military-controlled authorities labelled them illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

The Nay Pyi Taw government continues to deny allegations of ethnic cleansing, under little domestic political pressure in the mainly Buddhist state to defend the rights of the Muslim community.

Two prominent members of previous commissions, former Thai ambassador Kobsak Chutikul and ex-New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, resigned expressing frustration with the supposedly democratic government.

Doctors Without Borders said at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in the first month of the crackdown last year.

Most of the Rohingya remain in Bangladeshi refugee camps. Picture credit: Wikimedia