Naypyidaw (Myanmar): Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan, who is to head the Rakhine State Advisory Commission in Myanmar, has assured the people that he will assuage concerns over the potential partiality of the commission, saying its mandate is to take on board the concerns of both the state's Buddhist and Muslim communities, and not to police human rights.
Annan, during a press conference in Yangon yesterday, at the conclusion of a six-day trip, emphasised that the advisory body would take a consultative approach with all the stakeholders, reports the Myanmar Times.
"We don't reconcile by focusing on one side of the issue," he said.
His trip to Sittwe earlier this week was met by protests from Rakhine nationalists, who claim to reject international intervention in internal affairs.
Annan, however, said he respected their right to demonstrate and that he hopes to engage them in a constructive dialogue.
The commission, which was created at the behest of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, figures Annan, a Ghanaian, Ghassan Salame of Lebanon and Laetitia van den Assum of Norway.
The Arakan National Party has been particularly vocal about the appointment of three foreigners to the commission.
During the conference, Annan indicated that neighbouring countries would be consulted in the course of the commission's work, saying he believed this was an international issue that went beyond borders.
Annan acknowledged that the matter of nomenclature is a controversial one. He stated that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had not requested that he avoid use of the word "Rohingya" - something she had asked of the diplomatic community.
"The people in the camps and villages focused on issues of development, jobs, education, medical care, freedom of movement, occupation for [women] - and others spoke to us a lot about history, history of Rakhine State . That is important for us, particularly for the foreigners in the commission, to understand the background of the issue," he said.
Annan also confirmed he had met with military representatives and President U Htin Kyaw in Nay Pyi Taw.
A permanent office for the commission is currently being established in Sittwe and would operate with around five to 10 staff members, a representative of Annan's delegation confirmed.
"We intend to submit the report within one year but we will not rush. We will be very patient and submit the solid report which is helpful for the Rakhine community," he said.
The commission has been tasked with finding conflict-prevention measures, ensuring humanitarian assistance, rights and reconciliation, establishing basic infrastructure, and promoting development long-term plans in the restive state.