Misunderstanding of Rakhine conflict adds to woes: Thein Sein

Yangon (Eleven Media/ANN) - Myanmar President Thein Sein said the misinterpretation of the conflict in Rakhine state as religious violence between the Rakhine people and Muslims have made it more difficult to resolve the country's existing problems.

President Thein Sein made the comment in his televised speech yesterday evening. The speech focused on the activities the government plans to carry out from the recommendations that included in the Rakhine report, which was released by the investigation commission on April 29.

Thein Sein said he is convinced that despite challenges and difficulties, Myanmar will be able to create an open society where each and every citizen can enjoy equal opportunities to pursue their dreams.

"However bright the future prospects may be, irrational and extremist acts of some of our citizens can disrupt the reform processes the government is undergoing. We individuals are obliged to avoid such acts," he said.

The Rakhine Conflict Investigation Commission was formed in 2012 to uncover the root causes of communal violence in Rakhine state.

Thein Sein described the report as comprehensive, pragmatic and forward-looking.

The president said his administration was determined to resolve the ongoing problems in Rakhine state in a systematic and pragmatic manner, taking all necessary measures to create a harmonious society where all the communities can coexist peacefully.

Without capability to institute proper democratic practices and establish an open society in the past, Myanmar has witnessed armed conflicts, hardships, distrust between the ethnic groups and economic backwardness. The government therefore is conducting democratic reforms to remedy these problems, the president said.

"In this democratisation process, we must ensure all the citizens enjoy freedom of religion and freedom of speech. In this regard, there must be tolerance and mutual respect among the communities of different faiths. Only then will it be possible for us to coexist peacefully. The government will protect the right of all the citizens to worship any religion freely," Thein Sein said.

In his speech, Thein Sein also pointed out that the abuse of free speech has provoked hatred, worsening the conflict between the different religious communities.

The misinterpretation of the conflict in Rakhine State as religious violence between two different communities has made it more difficult to resolve the problems.

Another major problem was a failure to pay enough attention to the real causes of the conflict - a long shared border between Myanmar and Bangladesh with an explosive birth rate, evil legacy left behind by the colonialists and a low socioeconomic status of both the Rakhine and Muslim communities, the president pointed out.

As recommended by the investigation commission, he said community peace and tranquility, and the enforcement of law and order to contain further violence are immediate actions to take.

"As president, I will get everything done in my power to make sure that all security forces cooperate and coordinate with each other to effectively perform law enforcement duties entrusted to them," Thein Sein said.

The president pledged relief and humanitarian assistance for all those who lost their homes and property in the violence.

He also promised necessary assistance to international aid agencies working in the country.

The president said some of the activities carried out by international relief organisations may have worsened the situation in the conflict areas in Rakhine State. Therefore, they are urged to take into account local sensitivities when planning relief activities and to try to win trust and support of both communities, he added.

As recommended by the commission, the government will take all necessary security measures to prevent illegal immigration. Moreover, citizenship-related issues will be handled by adopting short- and long-term plans to create a harmonious society and achieve economic development in Rakhine state.

In his televised speech, President Thein Sein said the government will take measures not only to ensure the fundamental rights of the Muslims in Rakhine state but also to meet the needs and expectations of the Rakhine nationals.

According to the commission's report, two waves of sectarian violence in Rakhine State last year left 192 people dead, 265 injured, 8,614 houses destroyed, and more than 100,000 people internally displaced.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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