After one year of consultations held across Rakhine State (Myanmar) and in other parts of the country and the region, the UN’s Advisory Commission on Rakhine State submitted its final report to national authorities on 23 August.
The Commission, chaired by Kofi Annan, has put forward recommendations to surmount the political, socio-economic and humanitarian challenges that currently face Rakhine State. It builds on the Commission’s interim report released in March of this year. The report calls for urgent and sustained action on several fronts to prevent violence, maintain peace, foster reconciliation and offer a sense of hope to the State’s hard-pressed population.
“Unless concerted action—led by the government and aided by all sectors of the government and society—is taken soon, we risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalisation, which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine State,” said Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
The final report covers a broad range of structural impediments to the peace and prosperity of Rakhine State. Several recommendations focus specifically on citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, documentation, the situation of the internally displaced and freedom of movement affecting the Muslim population disproportionally.
The report is the outcome of over 150 consultations and meetings held by the Advisory Commission since its launch in September 2016. Commission members have travelled extensively throughout Rakhine State, and held meetings in Yangon and Naypyitaw, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, and Geneva.
“The Commission has put forward honest and constructive recommendations [that] we know will create debate,” Commission Chair Kofi Annan said. “However, if adopted and implemented in the spirit in which they were conceived, I firmly believe that our recommendations, along with those of our interim report, can trace a path to lasting peace, development and respect for the rule of law in Rakhine State.”
With the submission of its final report, the Advisory Commission on Rakhine has completed its mandate. However, the Commission’s report recommends that the Myanmar government establish a national mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of its recommendations.
The report affirms that, while Rakhine State’s poverty rate is 78 percent, that is almost double the national rate of 37.54 percent, making it one of the poorest parts of the country. All communities in Rakhine suffer from poverty, poor social services and a scarcity of livelihood opportunities.
The bulk of the Rakhine economy is made up of farmers, fishermen, and family-run business, and wages in the agricultural sector are low. Landlessness is more common in Rakhine than other parts of the country, especially in the northern part of the state, where 60 percent of households are landless.
Despite the rapid economic growth taking place in other parts of Myanmar over the past years, Rakhine has fallen further behind. Current international perceptions of Rakhine as a place marked by unrest and frequent human rights violations, including enforced segregation, continue to discourage foreign investment.
The report explain how Myanmar operates a form of institutionalized discrimination based on its 1982 law and accompanying 1983 procedures, defining a hierarchy of citizenship categories. For example, “citizenship by birth” is limited to members of certain “national ethnic races,” defined as the Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Burman, Mon, Rakhine and Shan and ethnic groups who have been permanently settled in the territory of what is now Myanmar since before 1823. The Rohingya people are a Muslim community that speaks Rohingya, a language related to Bengali. They have been subjected to dispossession, village burning and other forms of ethnic cleansing. Approximately 120,000 remain in camps for internally displaced people.
Photo on front page: Kofi Annan presents Advisory Commission’s report to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Source: UN. Photo on this page: A group of Rohingya gathered in prayer. Source: AP.
Download the Commission’s report “Towards a Peaceful, Fair and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine”
Visit the Commission’s website