"Rakhine region had seen no violent incidents after October 26."
Myanmar is working toward finding a solution to the problems in its Rakhine region that will be “win-win situation for all stakeholders”, Minister of Information U Aung Kyi has said.
In a brief interview to The Hindu in the new capital on Wednesday, Mr. Aung Kyi said the Rakhine region had seen no violent incidents after October 26. Efforts were being made to restore peace and stability and “without outside interference”, the region would soon return to normal, he said.
Clashes erupted last week in the State for the second time this year between Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 89 people were killed and 28,000 people had been displaced in the recent round of violence.
“The officials concerned and authorities are working hard. They are negotiating with the people, holding talks and working hard for regional peace and stability,” said the Minister, speaking through an interpreter.
After a period of positive attention that focused on its democratic reforms, Myanmar has come in for harsh criticism for not acting swiftly enough to prevent the incidents in the Rakhine region.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a strong statement urging the government of Myanmar to protect the rights of the Rohingyas, even as it asked the government of neighbouring Bangladesh to open its borders to refugees fleeing their homes.
A report by Tomás Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar who had toured the country after violence first erupted in the region in June this year, also rapped the government for not protecting the rights of the Rohingyas.
Mr. Aung Kyi, who was previously the liaison officer between the government and democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi and is known for being reforms-minded, said it was “not the aim of the local people to cause violence” on such a large scale. Since the incidents, government and NGOs — international and local — were providing humanitarian relief, in the region.
“We firmly believe that there is no reason this situation will grow any further. And we believe that especially, if there is no outside interference, there is no reason this problem will grow bigger. And the local people also have this belief, and from this situation we are going to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders, a solution that will benefit everybody,” he said, but did not go into details about what kind of solution the government had in mind. Rohingyas are denied citizenship by Myanmar, and as a consequence the rights that go with it.
But, said Mr. Aung Kyi, Myanmar was “accepting international aid and cooperating with the international organisations in accordance with international norms” and would continue to do so.
The OCHA report said there was a “strong anti-U.N. and NGO feeling” in the Rakhine State and threats were being issued against aid organisations, which were being told they were “biased”; in some places, humanitarian and relief supplies were being turned away.
Mr. Aung Kyi, who is credited with ending a nearly 50-year-long censorship of the press after he took charge of the Information Ministry in August, said “every assistance offered in a constructive way” was being accepted by the government.
He rejected concerns that the situation in Rakhine could affect the democratisation of the country. Instead, he said, the “challenge” of finding a solution to the problem in the region would only help the reforms process move faster.
“We firmly believe that these incidents cannot harm our reforms process, because we have already made a strong commitment to follow our reforms till [they are] successfully achieved. In my view, we will be able to find an answer that serves the interest of all people concerned … that can serve the interest of every stakeholder in this problem,” said the Minister.
“Actually, such kind of incidents, or hardship or any kind of difficulty we see as a challenge, and we are going to overcome this challenge. And we believeif we can overcome this challenge successfully, we can gain more acceleration to our reform process,” he added.
There was “no reason”, he said, for Myanmar to make a U-turn on its reforms. “The country has been conducting reforms with great acceleration and it is also doing the job systematically and gradually, step and step. The reforms you see are very obvious and noticeable, and very remarkable. It is very clear that we have no reason to reverse”.