Showing disapproval of the government’s decision to include a foreign expert on a new commission that will investigate widespread allegations of human rights abuses in Rakhine State, a military representative asked, “Who is ruling the country?” during a parliamentary session in Naypyitaw on Monday.
Military representatives and lawmakers from the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and Arakan National Party (ANP) objected to the government’s inclusion of a foreign expert in looking into issues in Rakhine State.
Military representative Colonel Myint Cho pointed out that prior investigations included both foreign and local committee members and questioned why the government had to rely on foreigners.
“The Kofi Annan-led [Rakhine State Advisory] commission and others were already formed with foreign experts. Does the government not trust those commissions? Or not trust its citizens? Will it only trust foreigners?” Colonel Myint Cho questioned during the parliamentary session.
Despite the opposition, the argument failed, as a majority of National League for Democracy lawmakers voted in favor of including a foreign expert.
All six of the military representatives who submitted arguments stated that they worried about the sovereignty of the country if there were foreign interference.
Following a President’s Office announcement at the end of May that the government would establish an independent commission to investigate human rights issues in Rakhine State, USDP lawmakers urged State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to lead the commission and include only locals.
Those in support of including foreigners stated that the investigation commission should not cause a fight between the military and the government and that both should work for the benefit of the country.
U Thiha Thwe, a columnist from Yangon, said the new commission should not be just for show, but that it should work hard to clear up any doubts held by the international community, or else the country’s image would continue to be affected.
“If you want to protect the military’s image, you have to accept whoever will help clear these negative allegations,” said U Thiha Thwe.
“The new committee is not like the UN fact-finding mission. There will be only one foreign expert. If the opposition uses this to attack the government, it could affect both the military and the country,” he added.
The opposition has said that foreign decisions on the acceptance of refugees and other issues facing Rakhine are unacceptable and that it is the military’s duty to uphold the Constitution and the country’s “three main national causes”—non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty.
The vice minister of the State Counselor’s Office U Khin Maung Tin explained that the government had to review the situation wisely, so as to not face an ICC [International Criminal Court] referral. He added that there is a lack of trust from the international community regarding the commission formerly called to investigate, and the Myanmar government has refused to give a UN fact-finding mission access to the country.