Myanmar President Thein Sein has said misinterpretation of the conflict in Rakhine state as religious violence between the Rakhine people and Muslims has made it more difficult to resolve the country's existing problems.
Thein Sein made the comment in his televised speech yesterday evening. The speech focused on the activities the government would carry out regarding the suggestions included in the Rakhine conflict 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. “Whatever prospects for a bright future 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 moves 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. So the government was conducting democratic reforms to remedy these problems, he 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 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.
The president also pointed out that the abuse of free speech had provoked hatred, worsening the conflict between different religious groups.
But “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 colonialists and a low socio-economic status of both 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 activities by international relief groups may have worsened the situation in conflict areas in Rakhine state. So, they were urged to take into account local sensitivities when planning relief work and to try to win trust and support of both communities.
As recommended by the commission, the government will take measures to prevent illegal immigration. Citizenship-related issues would be handled by adopting short- and long-term plans to create a harmonious society and achieve economic development in Rakhine state.
Moves would be taken to ensure fundamental rights of Muslims in Rakhine state and to meet the needs and expectations of Rakhine nationals. The report said two waves of violence in the state last year left 192 people dead, 265 injured, 8,614 houses destroyed, and more than 100,000 people displaced.