New Chief Minister for Myanmar’s Rakhine State to Serve for Only a Year

2014-06-27
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Police stand guard outside the destroyed offices of an international aid group in Sittwe on March 28, 2014.
Police stand guard outside the destroyed offices of an international aid group in Sittwe on March 28, 2014.
AFP

The military general named by Myanmar President Thein Sein as the new chief minister for troubled Rakhine state said Friday that he will serve for only about a year following complaints that he is not a native of the state.

Major General Maung Maung Ohn, who is not an ethnic Rakhine, was appointed a lawmaker of the state legislature before he was nominated on Wednesday to succeed Hla Maung Tin, who had resigned abruptly as chief minister after his tenure was rocked by communal violence.

The general is an ethnic majority Burman. The state’s dominant Rakhine National Party had demanded that the new chief minister fulfill three conditions—be an ethnic Rakhine, an elected MP from the state, and a member of the party.

Maung Maung Ohn said he will rule the state only until 2015, when Myanmar’s general elections are scheduled at the end of that year.

“There will be an ethnic Rakhine chief minister in Rakhine State when the new government takes over in 2015,” he said at a meeting with political parties and civil society groups from Rakhine in Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital.

“I will hand over my position to the new ethnic Rakhine chief minister when the time comes,” he said. “That’s why I am going to serve this position.”

Thein Sein is expected to retire after the 2015 polls, officials of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) have said.   

Objections

News reports said that there were objections against Maung Maung Ohn’s appointment by some groups at the Yangon meeting.

But the leader of the Rakhine National Party, Aung Maung, said the party had to accept the appointment.

“We have to welcome Major General Maung Maung Ohn as the chief minister of Rakhine State,” he said.

“We have faith in his abilities, but it is not good for the country as he had to retire from the military to serve as a chief minister,” Aung Maung said.

Last week, state media announced that Hla Maung Tin had been “allowed to resign” by Thein Sein, though no reasons were given on why the lawmaker from the USDP had quit.

He was appointed chief minister of Rakhine in 2010, two years before deadly violence erupted in the state between the mostly Buddhist ethnic Rakhines and the Rohingya Muslims that left more than 200 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

Maung Maung Ohn, who had served as deputy minister for borders affairs, previously led a government panel that investigated riots in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe in March, during which U.N. and humanitarian aid groups offices were ransacked by ethnic Rakhine mobs.

Priority

He said that Thein Sein wanted him to give priority to restoring stability and bringing about communal harmony, democratic reforms, and adherence to the law in Rakhine state.

Maung Maung Ohn said he also wanted to step up efforts to improve the living standards of the Rakhines, some of whom he said lived under conditions worse than those of Rohingyas in camps for internally displaced people (IDP).

“When we visited IDP camps [for Rohingyas], there were food, good toilets, and good living conditions. But in some ethnic Rakhine villages, there is no toilet, no electricity, and no drinking water,” he said.

“They live in small huts,” he said, pointing out that humanitarian aid should also be provided to them.

Reported by Tun Myint, Kyan Htun and Naing Myo Zaw Ko for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.

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