By Kyaw Ye Lynn
YANGON, (AA): Myanmar has invited foreign ministers from Southeast Asian nations for talks in an effort to reduce regional concerns over a situation in western Rakhine State in which anything from 76 to 400 Rohingya Muslims have died.
A military crackdown in Rakhine that followed Oct. 9 attacks on police stations has raised concerns among ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, especially in predominantly Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia.
On Monday, a ministry of foreign affairs spokesman told Anadolu Agency that state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi — also Myanmar’s foreign minister — has invited regional counterparts to an informal meeting in the country’s largest city Yangon on Dec. 19.
“As she understands the concerns of neighboring countries over Rakhine issues, she wants to explain to them what is really happening in the area,” Kyaw Zeya — the director general of the ministry — said by phone.
“At the meeting, she will brief on the Rakhine situation as well as other issues in the country,” he said.
At least 94 people — 17 soldiers and 76 alleged “attackers” (including six who reportedly died during interrogation) — have been killed while some 575 suspects have been detained in military operations since the Oct. 9. attacks, when police stations were attacked by armed men in Maungdaw district near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh.
Rohingya advocacy groups however claim around 400 Rohingya — described by the United Nations as among the most persecuted groups worldwide — were subsequently killed in the military operations in the north of the Rakhine.
The violence, the burning of Rohingya property and alleged rapes have sparked international criticism of both Myanmar’s military and Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy government.
In response to growing international and regional concerns, the government last week established a commission to investigate the attacks and allegations against the military.
State-media reported Monday that members of the commission — led by vice-president Myint Swe — had arrived Monday in conflict-torn areas of Rakhine to probe whether security forces acted in accordance with the law during the operations.
The commission will submit its findings and suggestions by the beginning of February to the president’s office.
The commission is a separate entity to the Advisory Commission on Rakhine, which is headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and was set up to to advise the government on resolving conflicts in the state.
[Photo: Destruction of houses by Myanmar Government forces in Rakhine Statein November 2016. Photo by Human Rights Watch/AA]