31 August, 2018
Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) held their second meeting from 29 to 31 August 2018. ICOE is tasked to investigate allegations of human rights violations and related issues following the terrorist attacks by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Rakhine State with a view to seeking accountability and formulating recommendations on steps to be taken to ensure peace and stability in Rakhine State.
On 29 and 30 August 2018, the Commission met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Vice- Senior General Soe Win, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe, Union Minister for Home Affairs, and U Kyaw Tint Swe, Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor. They also had a working lunch with the representatives from Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
ICOE appreciated the openness of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services and Union Minister for Home Affairs in sharing of information. They were heartened by the assurance of their full cooperation to the work of ICOE and also welcomed their commitment to provide safe and secure passage to the sites to be visited.
There was a frank and open exchange of information and discussions on Rakhine State such as background history of Rakhine State, the current situation in Rakhine, the related works of the government in Rakhine State, the progress of work between Myanmar and Bangladesh governments and the work and objectives of ICOE during the courtesy calls. ICOE reiterated their commitment to ensure that the rule of law prevails, seek accountability and promote reconciliation.
On 31 August 2018, ICOE made a day trip to the affected areas in the Northern Rakhine to have an understanding of the prevailing environment. They toured the villages in the Maungtaw region such as Nga Khu Ya, General Administrative Department and Shwe Zar. During the visit, the Commission met with Rakhine Chief Minister and was briefed on the government’s efforts for the repatriation process for the displaced persons who crossed over to Bangladesh after the terrorist attacks on 16 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 by ARSA in line with the principle of “voluntary, safe and dignified return” under the “Arrangement” signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh governments on 23 November 2017.
The activities of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement, and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD) and their ten taskforces was also elaborated.
ICOE inspected one of the Reception Centres for returnees to understand the process of verification and to see first-hand the preparedness of Myanmar for the returnees. ICOE Members also took time to dialogue with the different communities in the various villages in Northern Rakhine namely Rakhines, Muslims and Hindus living in mixed villages. They also spoke to some survivors and their family-members of the terrorists’ attacks of 25-26 October 2016.
ICOE met with a family of eight (8) members who had returned to Myanmar on their own volition and not under the “Arrangement”. They had candid discussions on their experiences prior and after their return.
This second meeting of ICOE was very productive and allowed for more substantive discussions to take place. The field visit also provided them the opportunity to have better understanding of the situation on the ground and to hear the voices of the different communities.
Office of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) Nay Pyi Taw
31 August 2018