Myanmar reiterates commitment to peace in Rakhine state

Yangon, April 2: Myanmar President U Thein Sein has voiced his commitment to ensuring peace and stability in the country’s western state of Rakhine and carrying out a successful national census.

U Thein Sein made the remarks in a telephone conversation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday, Xinhua reported citing a press statement issued Wednesday by the Myanmar government’s information team.

U Thein Sein told Ban that the Myanmar government has taken the necessary measures to ensure the safety of all members of UN agencies and humanitarian aid agencies following the outbreak of riots in Rakhine’s state capital Sittway March 26-27.

The government has made arrangements for the staff and aid workers leaving Sittway while providing protection to those who wanted to stay back in Sittway, he said.

The president assured Ban that a commission has been set up to probe the riots and would take necessary action against all offenders.

He disclosed that 20 international observers were monitoring Myanmar’s census throughout the country which was being carried out in line with international standards with the cooperation of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).

The president thanked Ban for the humanitarian assistance provided by the UN, expressing his desire to continue to cooperate with the UN and international organisations for effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The riots, which targeted offices and residences of international aid groups, broke out March 26-27, in which a number of Sittway-based offices of international aid groups, including ICRC, UNHCR and WFP were attacked by hundreds of unidentified local ethnic demonstrators.

The unrest was triggered by the taking down of a Buddhist flag by a female project coordinator of a humanitarian organisation. The flag, hoisted near the office of the organisation, was supposed to be a symbol of boycotting the government’s nationwide census which started March 30.

Following the incident, Myanmar authorities claimed to have so far evacuated some 38 foreigners working for UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations (INGO) based in Sittway while 29 others are being provided protection.

After the incident, Myanmar’s Rakhine state government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Sittway March 27 night in a bid to prevent the violence from spreading further.

The Myanmar government formed a five-member investigation commission, headed by Minister of Border Affairs Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Ohn, to probe the incident and it is tasked to submit a report to the president April 7.

Tension has prevailed in Rakhine state ahead of the nationwide census which is the first in three decades.

However, in the latest development, the Rakhine ethnic community has stopped boycotting the census after the Rakhine state census-taking authorities formally announced that they will not include Rohingya tribals in the census.

IANS