Union Minister briefs on Rakhine, peace, democracy at UN side event

(From left to right) Dr. Aung Tun Thet, Chief Coordinator of UEHRD, U Htin Lynn, Permanent Representative to UN, Union Minister U Thaung Tun and MP Daw Pyone Kathy Naing. Photo: MNA
(From left to right) Dr. Aung Tun Thet, Chief Coordinator of UEHRD, U Htin Lynn, Permanent Representative to UN, Union Minister U Thaung Tun and MP Daw Pyone Kathy Naing. Photo: MNA

A side event entitled “Understanding Myanmar: Efforts for Reconciliation and Peace”, at which the peace process, the transition to democracy and the Rakhine issue were addressed, was held Thursday during the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council being held at the United Nations Office in Geneva.
The Myanmar delegation hosting the briefing was led by U Thaung Tun, Union Minister for the Office of the Union Government.
The Myanmar delegation included Dr. Aung Tun Thet, Chief Coordinator of UEHRD, Daw Pyone Kathy Naing, Member of Pyithu Hluttaw, U Je Yaw Wu, Member of Amyotha Hluttaw, U Nay Oke Tint and Daw Haymar Min Thu. More than 40 Permanent Representatives/Representatives from Permanent Missions and UN agencies in Geneva were present at the event. U Htin Lynn, Permanent Representative of Myanmar, made the introductory remarks.
The Union Minister briefed attendees on the changes, challenges and choices for Myanmar. Salient points of his statement were:
• Myanmar has undergone remarkable change and transformation in recent years.
The country has abandoned five decades of military rule and is striving to ensure that democracy takes firm root. We are now on a path of transition away from centuries-long legacies of colonial occupation, ethnic rivalries and military rule.
• Immediately after taking office, the government began revitalizing the peace process. In spite of the complexities involved, there has been significant progress. The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) was signed by eight ethnic armed groups in 2015. A new milestone in the direction of peace was made last month when two more ethnic armed groups came on board.
• With regard to rule of law, it is worth mentioning here that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in addressing the conference on justice and rule of law on Wednesday, underscored the need for judicial and legal reforms.
• The complexity is compounded by the high expectations that the international community and the Myanmar people have for the Government.
• With regard to Rakhine, it is only natural that there will be critics and doubting Thomases. Scepticism may well be warranted. However, what we need is constructive criticism and not recriminations and the passing of judgment. We need to find a constructive way forward.
• Nothing must be done to derail the transition to democracy.
• In Rakhine, our efforts to bring peace and development were on track until August 2017, when violence was triggered by the attacks on security forces by terrorists. Regrettably, the attacks and the subsequent mass displacement of people changed the situation and negatively affected the perception and attitude of the international community on the situation in Myanmar.
• The Government, recognizing the urgent need to find a lasting solution to the problem of Rakhine, has been working to promote peace, harmony, and development for all communities.
• The Government has initiated a number of programmes to find a sustainable solution to the issue of Rakhine. We are currently implementing the recommendations of the Annan Commission. A Ministerial-level implementation committee and an Advisory Board, made up of eminent personalities from home and abroad, have been set up to help us find lasting solutions. The State Counsellor herself is leading a public-private enterprise, the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD), to provide humanitarian assistance, carry out resettlement and rehabilitation and to develop Rakhine State.
• Allegations of widespread “atrocities”, “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” have been made repeatedly. The Government and the leadership have been accused of standing by in silence.
• The leaders of Myanmar, who have been struggling so long for freedom and human rights, will never condone any action that can be construed as ethnic cleansing or genocide. The Government will do everything to prevent it.
• We take the allegations of human rights violations seriously and will take action against offenders whenever there is clear evidence.
• Far from being indifferent to the situation, we care deeply for all people affected, including those who have fled to Bangladesh, due to recent incidents in Rakhine.
• Following the agreement reached between Myanmar and Bangladesh, we have made preparations for the repatriation of the displaced persons.
• Concerns have been expressed by the international community for the safety and security of the returnees. We have strengthened our border guard police capacity to ensure the safety of the returnees as well as all communities – Rakhine, Muslim, Daingnet, Mro, Thet, Maramagyi and Hindu. They are all victims of violence and terrorism. Security needs to be ensured for all.
• Today, we are faced with terrorism, funded and inspired from abroad. This is a dangerous trend for all of us. We need to join hands to counter the growing threat posed to our region by terrorism.
• The complexities and challenges in Rakhine cannot be seen in isolation and through a narrow lens of human rights of one particular community alone.
• On our part, Myanmar is ready to continue to work with the international community.
• At the same time, we earnestly hope that the international community will pursue a more objective and balanced approach to help overcome the challenges in Rakhine.
• Without mutual understanding, mutual suspicion and hostility will prevail. The lives of those most affected will not improve. And the door will be open to even greater tragedy.
• I believe that the better choice before us is to recognize the reality of the situation on the ground and accommodate each other’s concerns. We must work together to build trust and confidence in order to achieve lasting peace, stability and development in Rakhine.
Then, Dr. Aung Tun Thet, Chief Coordinator of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine State (UEHRD), appraised Myanmar’s development strategies and agendas, which are in line with Sustainable Development Goals. He also briefed about the work of UEHRD(a public-private enterprise), in term of humanitarian assistance, resettlement and development in Rakhine State through ten task forces.
Daw Pyone Kathy Naing, a member of the Pyithu Hluttaw, gave an explanation of her perspectives on Rakhine, providing humanitarian assistance in Rakhine, the promotion and protection of human rights, and concerns on the terrorist acts of ARSA based on her 30 years of experience in human rights. She stressed that no one is above the law and they will continue to fight for it. She urged the international community to extend understanding and cooperation to Myanmar. She warned that sanctions against Myanmar will affect mostly the ordinary people of Myanmar.
During the question-and-answer session, Permanent Representatives/Representatives of Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, the European Union and Australia raised questions related to the state of cooperation between Myanmar and the UNDP and UNHCR on humanitarian and development assistance in Rakhine State, the work and funding of UEHRD, cooperation with the World Bank, more access for humanitarian organizations, the repatriation process, the possibility of setting up a national independent investigation commission, actions against security personnel who committed human rights violations, freedom of movement and prevention of statelessness.
The Union Minister and the Chief Coordinator responded to all the questions.
After the side event, the Union Minister briefed the press on the situation in Rakhine State at the United Nations Office and conducted a telephone interview with BBC (Myanmar).
The 37th Session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations Office in Geneva began on 26 February and will continue until 23 March.—
Myanmar News Agency

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