State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has been appointed to chair a government-formed committee to work towards peace and development in western Myanmar’s impoverished and war-torn Rakhine state, a high-ranking government official said Monday.
The Central Committee for Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State consists of 27 officials, including all government cabinet members as well as Rakhine state government representatives, said Win Myat Aye, head of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and member of the committee.
President Htin Kyaw issued a signed statement establishing the committee and appointing Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, as chairwoman, he said.
Zaw Htay, spokesman of the state counselor’s office, said the committee members will make an inspection trip to Rakhine “very soon,” but did not mention specific dates or indicate whether Aung San Suu Kyi will be part of the delegation.
“The Union government has a policy of working together with state and regional governments to serve the development needs of the people, especially in less developed and poor states such as Rakhine and Chin,” said Win Myat Aye.
“Now we’ve started with Rakhine state,” he said. “The purpose is so we can achieve more stability and more development.”
Each of the committee members will focus on their respective fields of responsibilities such as education, transportation, social issues and health care, he said.
The Rohingya issue
The committee will also work on the resettlement of internally displaced persons, social development, and the coordination of the activities of United Nations agencies and international nongovernmental organizations, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.
The National League for Democracy (NLD) government will form similar committees for other states and regions, Win Myat Aye said.
Aung San Suu Kyi called a meeting in the administrative capital Naypyidaw on Friday with Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu and various national government ministers to discuss stability and development in the state and a controversial citizenship verification process for internally displaced persons (IDP) that has reportedly resumed this month, The Irrawaddy report said.
The verification process concerns the 120,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims who currently live in IDP camps as a result of the violence that erupted between them and local Buddhists in 2012.
The government views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, although many have lived in Rakhine for generations.
During a meeting last week with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also Myanmar’s foreign minister, said the government is working for a solution that will allow the Rohingya to live peacefully and securely outside the camps.
Arakan Army clashes
The state has also been wracked by hostilities between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA), an armed ethnic group, in its northern townships. The clashes have forced thousands of residents to flee their homes during the past several months.
The AA has so far been excluded from negotiations among the government, national military and various armed ethnic groups who are trying to end civil wars and forge peace in the country.
The situation has been further complicated by tensions between the ruling NLD, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and the local Arakan National Party (ANP), which represents the interests of the predominantly Buddhist, ethnic Rakhine majority living in the state and in Yangon region.
Earlier this year, the NLD appointed Nyi Pu, one of its own lawmakers, as the state’s chief minister. The ANP, however, argued for having a state leader from their party because it had won 23 of 47 state parliament seats in national elections last November, but failed to gain a majority in the Rakhine state legislature because a quarter of seats automatically went to military representatives.
Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.