Ghassan Salame, member of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, briefs media on the commission's interim report and recommendations in Yangon on March 16, 2017. [Photo: China Plus/Tu Yun]
A 9-member international commission set up to monitor issues in Myanmar's northwestern state of Rakhine is calling for full humanitarian and media access to the region.
The Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, headed by former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Anna, is tasked to propose solutions to resolve long-standing communal conflict between Buddhist and Muslim populations in Rakhine.
Six months after its establishment at the behest of the Myanmar government, it comes up with an interim report and recommendations following several field trips.
Commission member Ghassan Salame chaired the press briefing held in Yangon on Thursday.
"First and foremost, a full and unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations into the areas where violence has taken place, in fact, to all areas in Rakhine State. The second recommendation is for the full and regular access for both local and international media representatives to these same areas."
Access to the region has been restricted since the government forces began "clearance operations" after nine police border guards were killed in attacks on the 9th of last October.
As the security forces have been accused of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and arson during the operations, the commission calls on the Myanmar government to ensure that perpetrators of the crimes to be held accountable.
Salame notes changes need to take place within the security forces.
"First, in its composition. What the commission would like to see is a better representation of all the groups living in Rakhine in the police force because we believe when the police force in its composition reflects better the general population of the state, it helps a lot. Second… we would like the local police to be trained in better respect of human rights."
The commission also calls for closure of all camps for internally displaced persons.
We don't believe that the IDP (camps) are a natural state of things, especially for those who are in the IDP (camps), who used to live a few meters or a few dozens meters from those IDP (camps)."
More than 100,000 people, most of whom Muslims, have been displaced since violence broke out in 2012. Some have been reportedly stuck in the camps nearly five years after being forced to move.
The Myanmar government is also urged to draft a clear strategy and timeline to revitalize a failed citizenship verification process.
Over one million Muslims in Rakhine are reportedly denied citizenship, which leads to their movement restricted and rights denied.
A statement issued by Myanmar's State Counsellor's office hours after the report's release says the large majority of the 30 or so recommendations will be implemented promptly with a view to maximum effectiveness. And the implementation of a few will be contingent upon the situation on the ground.
A final report by the commission will be submitted by the end of August.