World Bulletin / News Desk
The high-level commission was formed last month with the aim of finding lasting solutions to “complex and delicate issues” in Rakhine -- home to around 1.2 million Rohingya Muslims.
More than 200 Buddhists holding banners emblazoned with “No to Kofi Annan-led commission” waited hours at Sittwe airport to protest the arrival of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine.
Talking to Anadolu Agency on the phone, Tin Htoo from the nationalist Rakhine National Network accused the commission of interfering in Myanmar’s internal affairs.
“Though we respect Kofi Annan and his reputation, we don’t want such a commission,” he said. “The commission should not include non-Burmese persons who don't care for our views and our history."
State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi formed the nine-member commission to advise the government on resolving “complex and delicate issues” in Rakhine, but she has since been criticized for the inclusion of non-Burmese people.
On Monday she stood her ground.
“There are also claims that by forming this commission we are bringing our domestic problems onto the international stage. It is not true in fact,” she said at the commission’s first meeting in commercial capital Yangon.
“Our problems have been on the international stage for many years. We want to find out why... We want to find out the root causes. We want to find out the solutions,” she stressed.
In a statement released after the meeting, Annan stressed he wanted to listen to all voices.
“We look forward to listening and engaging with a wide range of interlocutors in Rakhine State as well as at the national level in order to develop proposals that take full account of the concerns and hopes of the people of the state,” he said.
The statement added that the commission would submit and discuss its findings and recommendations to the government through Suu Kyi and publish a report in the second half of 2017.
The commission is in Sittwe on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with local authorities and representatives from various communities.
Annan is also scheduled to meet with President Htin Kyaw and military chief Min Aung Hlaing in capital Naypyidaw on the morning Sept. 8.
Since mid-2012, nearly 100 people have been killed and some 100,000 displaced after communal violence broke out in Rakhine between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya -- described by the UN as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide.
Rohingya have subsequently been fleeing Myanmar in droves, terrified of the violence that some human rights groups consider state sponsored.
Rights groups estimate that as many as 10 percent of the ethnic group have fled the country in search of better opportunities in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia -- many of them paying people smugglers in an effort to achieve their goals.