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Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler on the situation in Rakhine, Myanmar

28.08.2017

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (28 August) on the situation in Rakhine, Myanmar:

I was greatly concerned to hear the reports about the renewed violence which has cost more than 100 lives in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.       

It was just three days ago, on 25 August, that the international Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by Kofi Annan presented its proposals for a “peaceful, fair and prosperous future for the people of Rakhine”. These recommendations, drawn up with input from national and international experts, are a crucial starting point for improving the human rights situation in Rakhine. Fully implementing them will open up development opportunities for everyone in Rakhine as well as possibilities for reconciliation in a highly complex conflict. I am therefore glad that State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has already welcomed the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations and initiated the first steps towards implementing them.            

The latest escalation of violence in northern Rakhine clearly demonstrates that a sustainable and comprehensive approach to resolving this conflict is needed now more than ever. I therefore call on all involved to do everything in their power to de-escalate the situation and to protect civil society. I very much regret that we have had to halt our humanitarian aid, with all international aid organisations being evacuated from northern Rakhine on 27 August, and I hope that it can start again quickly once the situation has calmed down.             

I call on the Myanmar Government to expedite the implementation of the recommendations, as it has said it will. Like the European Union, the German Government is ready to do all it can to support it through these challenging tasks.

Background information:  

On 25 August 2017, an international Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented its final report containing detailed recommendations for the Myanmar Government. Comprising national and international experts, the commission has drawn up proposals for sustainably stabilising and improving the situation in Rakhine. The proposals cover the economic and social development of Rakhine, resumption of the stagnating citizenship-verification process for Muslims in northern Rakhine, in connection with the re-establishment of freedom of movement, access for humanitarian organisations and the media, fundamental improvements to the education, healthcare and legal systems, action against cross-border drug trafficking, improvement of local communities’ political representation and closure of the internally displaced persons camps that have existed since 2012. The commission furthermore recommends fundamentally reviewing Myanmar’s citizenship laws and setting up an agency to implement its recommendations.

According to Myanmar Government reports, there were attacks on police and army posts in northern Rakhine in the morning of 25 August, for which the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army has claimed responsibility. The violence has escalated in the subsequent days, and more than 100 people have lost their lives. On 27 August, the offices of all international (aid) organisations in northern Rakhine were closed and their staff evacuated with the assistance of the Myanmar army. The country is seeing another wave of civilians fleeing their homes. Armed conflicts previously broke out in Rakhine as recently as October 2016, in the course of which the Myanmar army was accused of massive human rights violations. The UN Human Rights Council has decided to set up an international commission of inquiry into the incidents, but the Myanmar Government has refused to cooperate.

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