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Suu Kyi’s First 100 days: What We Find and Expected

Burma State counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the third day of the working committee meeting for the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference in Naypyitaw, Burma, July 05 2016. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

By Aman Ullah

“There shall not be whatsoever discrimination. A democratically elected government is responsible for all citizens, being fair and square to everybody, harbouring loving kindness and compassion towards all,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

For nearly 30 years, Aung San Suu Kyi starred as arguably the world’s most prominent and revered political prisoner, a courageous champion of human rights and democracy in her military-ruled nation. As she completes her first 100 days in power on July 9 of this year, during these days what did they say, what did we find and what we did we want to expect?

What Did They Say

According to the “Preliminary response by Myanmar to the draft report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the “Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” to the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council,” efforts by the new government to address the situation in Rakhine State are provided hereunder:

1. Since the new government took state responsibilities on 30 March 2016, it has been addressing the situation in Rakhine State, as one of the highest priorities on its agenda.

2. As development is fundamental for sustainable peace and stability in Rakhine State, the Government formed the Central Committee on the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development of Rakhine State on 30 May 2016, with the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as its Chairperson. The Central Committee is tasked to bring peace, stability and development to all people in Rakhine State.

3. The four working committees were also formed on the same day to ensure successful implementation of the objectives of the Central Committee. These are: 1) the Security, Peace and Stability and the Rule of Law Working Committee; 2) the Immigration and Citizenship Scrutinizing Working Committee; 3) the Settlement and Socio-economic Development Working Committee; 4) the Working Committee on Cooperation with UN Agencies and International Organizations.

4. On 2 June, the Vice-Chairman of the Central Committee and Union Minister for Border Affairs, Lt-Gen Ye Aung, accompanied by several Union Ministers, the Rakhine State Chief Minister and other responsible officials, visited Kyaukpyu and Thandwe Townships. On his tour to Kyaukpyu Township, the Vice-Chairman met with regional officials and the local populace and stressed that development of Rakhine State is the key to peace and stability and development of the entire nation. He also highlighted that there is a need to be cautious about external instigation and disturbances in the region. Thereafter, they visited IDP camps in Kanyintaw and Kyauktalon and discussed with officials and local people the work of the subcommittees to ensure peace, stability and development in Rakhine State.

5. The Union Ministers for Border Affairs; State Counsellor’s Office; Education; Health; Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; and Labour, Immigration and Population also met and explained to the local people their respective missions on contributing to the overall development of Rakhine State.

6. Citizenship verification is central to addressing the issue in Rakhine State. Therefore, a verification process, commencing with the issuance of Identity Cards for National Verification (NVC) has been launched in Kyaukpyu, Myaepon and Ponnakyun since 7 June 2016. This process is conducted within the framework of the 1982 Citizenship Law. For clarity’s sake, we would like to stress that the process is not limited to Rakhine State alone. The same process is also being undertaken or will be undertaken in other regions and states which share common borders with our neighbouring countries.

7. The Government of Myanmar is doing its utmost to find a tangible and durable solution to the issue in Rakhine State, while taking into consideration the concerns expressed by local people and the international community.

8. Since the issue at hand is of a sensitive nature, the government is tackling it carefully. Peace and stability is of paramount importance to the overall development of Rakhine State and to all people who reside there. The use of certain nomenclature would amount to adding fuel to the fire. It would only heighten the tension and widen the rift between the two communities, thereby derailing the government’s good intentions and constructive endeavours.

9. The situation in Rakhine State is complex. Therefore, the new government is taking swift and firm actions to ameliorate it. These actions will begin to bear fruit in due course. However, Myanmar needs more time to find durable solutions in this regard.

What Did We Find

1. She has not recognized that there is a genocide being perpetrated by Rohingya.

2. She has not condemned or spoken out against the violence, including: murder, killing, rape, the confiscation of Rohingya property and burning down of their places of worship that the Rohingya endure.

3. Instead she equivocates between the Rohingya and Rakhine as equally at fault for conflict in Burma.

4. Over 120,000 Rohingya live in IDP camps where they face severe restrictions: on food, education, work, and health care.

5. Suu Kyi has not spoken out against or made any attempt to retract/amend the discriminatory race and religion laws.

6. She’s never spoken out against the violence and fundamentalism being perpetrated by the MaBaTha.

7. As the head of the foreign ministry of Burma she officially called on governments not to use the name “Rohingya” thus denying their identity.

8. Her religious minister met with Wirathu, the leader of the extremist MaBaTha.

What Did We Find Before

When they were in opposition, they never have been genuinely interested in promoting their rights and they try to used the Rohingyas as pawns rather than allies. They also fought against the bid to enfranchise the Rohingya, with one of the party’s lawmakers dismissing the proposal as “inconsistent” with other legislation. In December, the NLD fired one of its leaders for making a public speech criticizing the proliferation of Buddhist extremism. Although he was released from jail, facing a three-year jail sentence for “insulting” religion, Suu Kyi has never spoken in his support.

Her silence has been widely interpreted as a Machiavellian gambit designed to avoid controversy ahead of the 2015 election in which they expected to win by a landslide. The upsurge in religious hostility — which has claimed hundreds of mostly Muslim lives across the country since 2012 — is seen by some as a manufactured attempt to fracture her popular support base. Either way, Suu Kyi – like her uniformed opponents — seems to have prioritized political cunning over human rights.

What did we want to expect

• A hundred days is a very small span of time that can judge to anything. It is not only possible to solve all the problems during this time but also give satisfaction to everybody.

• Daw Suu once promised in her message that, “there shall not be whatsoever discrimination. A democratically elected government is responsible for all citizens, being fair and square to everybody, harbouring loving kindness and compassion towards all,” and we do hope and pray her loving kindness and compassion may be prevailed on these unfortunate Muslims community of Arakan.

• We believe that Daw Suu is not merely a political leader who is only engaged in politics, especially an elected or appointed government official; but she is a statesman who put the needs of the country before the personal or party needs and acts for the better interests of the country. We strongly believe your statesmanship in managing all issues during a critical stage of the country.

• Arakan Problem is not merely an immigrants problem rather it is a problem of “survival of the fittest”. The survival of the interests of Big Powers like, China, India, Japan and US are also involved there. The survival of the narrow interests of USDP and Burmese army high-up are also involved there. The personal interest of some of the Rakhine political leaders including Aye Maung are also involved there. The Business interests of the some of the cronies are also involved there.

• The most important task in this time, in Arakan, is re-establishment of trust among the peoples of Arakan, after a long period of bitter antagonism which causes suffering and discord. Healing the hearts of these peoples is essentially a process of reconciliation with a genuine desire to place happiness and well-being of the whole peoples of Arakan, which will require an atmosphere of increasing trust.

• The government needs to take confidence building measures in order to create congenial atmosphere in Arakan that will re-establish trust among the peoples of Arakan. In this regards the government should immediately need to take the following steps:-

1. Let relieve form the hell like conditions and several restrictions to the peoples of Arakan, particularly the Rohingya.

2. Abolish the Rakhine Action Plan and end institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya, including the denial of citizenship.

3. Recognize the citizenship and ethnic rights of the Rohingya. They should be able to peacefully co-exist in Arakan as equals and common citizens of Arakan with their ‘collective rights’;

4. Hold accountable all those who commit human rights abuses, including inciting ethnic and religious intolerance and violence.

5. Take masseurs for rehabilitation (not relocation) of IDPs to their original homes, which need to facilitate the safe and voluntary return of them to their communities.

6. Take masseurs for repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of Rohingya refugees outside the country in their original homes and properties.

7. Take masseurs to reintegration of these IDPs to their original society.

8. Develop a comprehensive reconciliation plan, including establishing a commission of inquiry into crimes committed against the Rohingya in Arakan.

9. Improve the welfare of ethnic and religious minorities and repeal laws and discriminatory practices that pose an existential threat to the Rohingya community.

• Furthermore, the government’s sincere attempts are needed to implementing a genuine dialogue for promoting reconciliation between the two sister communities of Rohingya and Rakhine and for restoring peace and relaxation of tension in Arakan. The international community must urge the new NLD government to constitute a UN mandated ‘commission of inquiry’ into crimes committed against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. Neighboring countries should offer protection and assistance to Rohingya asylum seekers.