As an international human rights group criticises the government over last year’s violence in Rakhine State, pressure is growing for the release of the government’s own investigation report.
The long-awaited report of an investigation commission into the Rakhine violence is now in the hands of President U Thein Sein – but it is still not clear whether or when the report will be made public.
Presidential spokesperson U Ye Htut confirmed that the president received the Rakhine report on April 22, one day ahead of the extended deadline.
“The president is studying the report, and we cannot yet confirm whether the report will be made public or not,” U Ye Htut, who is also deputy information minister, told The Myanmar Times on April 24.
In the meantime, Human Rights Watch released its own 153-page report on April 22, titled All You Can Do is Pray: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State.
The HRW report is strongly critical of the government, claiming that it engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya that continues to this day through the denial of aid and restrictions on movement.
Commission member Ko Thura, better known as the comedian Zaganar, said on April 23: “We have submitted final report to the president’s office, with copies in both Myanmar and English. But I can't say whether it will be published.” Zaganar said that, at 105 pages long, the report might be too big to publish in the state-run media, as has been done with other reports.
The commission plans to hold a news conference at the Myanmar Peace Centre at the end of April to explain its findings.
“We've printed 500 books about the report to be distributed at the conference,” said Zaganar.
The President’s Office announced the formation of the 27-member committee on August 17, 2012 to look into the causes of the violence in Rakhine State the previous May and June and to make recommendations.
The report was supposed to be filed by November 16. Since the report was not complete at the time – more unrest broke out in late October – the commission filed an interim report that has not been made public.
The government has said it will abide by the commission’s findings and recommendations.
Commission member U Aung Naing Oo hinted that the findings would differ from those of Human Rights Watch.
“International observers might take a different view of Rakhine than local people. We must study the views of all parties to the conflict, not just one side. Above all, we must study the local context in detail. But we shouldn’t neglect criticisms,” said U Aung Naing Oo, who is also director of the Myanmar Peace Centre’s peace dialogue program.
“Our report contains advice that we believe to be in the best interests of the state and the people, especially in terms of ensuring a lasting peace in Rakhine State in the long term,” he said.
U Shwe Maung, a Pyithu Hluttaw representative for Buthidaung in Rakhine State, said the president should publish the report in the interests of transparency.
“I assume the report’s recommendations are in the best interests of both communities. Peaceful co-existence is the most important point. I would be prepared to back the people’s demands in that respect,” said U Shwe Maung, who is a member of the Union Solidarity and Development Party.