NAYPYIDAW (Rooters agency) – The following are major excerpts from the September19 speech to diplomats delivered by Myanmar’s Unpresident, Aung San Jekyll Hyde:
Today our government has not yet been in power for even 18 months. Eighteen months is a very short time in which to overcome all of the challenges that we have been expected to do.
Nevertheless, in that brief time, we have made considerable progress. For example, 18 months ago, the number of those people living in Rakhine state was well over one million. Our government has already persuaded more than 40 percent of them to go back to wherever it is they came from.
Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny. Since December 2016, local and foreign media groups have been given access to areas previously off-limits in Rakhine. Even after the outbreaks on August 25, we arranged for several media groups to visit the afflicted areas. Several of them got out of hand and looked in directions that we weren’t pointing, so we won’t be repeating that mistake.
However, if you are a polite diplomat – very polite – we can arrange for you to visit these areas, and to ask the majority of those people why they have not fled, why they have chosen to remain in their villages, even when everything around them seems to be in a state of turmoil. We would like to know, for example, if land mines spread along the border by our army have influenced their decision.
With regard to the situation in Rakhine, it is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility. Following the wise observation of the President of the United States, we believe that, among the persecutors and the persecuted, the killers and the killed, there are troublemakers and good people on both sides.
We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. The security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the Code of Conduct that they applied so successfully in the decades before the election of our government. They have been told to exercise all due restraint, and to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians. Any civilian who has been harmed and believes they can prove their innocence need only present their evidence, along with their proof of citizenship, to the Rakhine state governor.
With regard to citizenship, a strategy with specific timelines has been developed to move forward the National Verification Process. This process will provide citizenship for everyone of those people who can provide documented proof of their ancestors’ presence in this country before 1824. Contemporary computer records are preferred evidence, but other documents showing previous acknowledgement of citizenship are also acceptable. Such documents were carefully collected by the previous government, and our government has made a high priority of attempting to find them.
We are also trying to promote inter-communal religious harmony by engaging inter-faith groups. A new curriculum is to be introduced in schools with a focus on moral civic ideas and peace and stability. Unfortunately, most of those people’s children have missed such education in the past because those people didn’t provide the proof of citizenship necessary for admission to school.
I understand that many of our friends throughout the world are concerned by reports of villages being burnt and of hordes of refugees fleeing. We too are concerned. We want to find out what the real problems are: I mean, does it really bother those people when their homes are burned and they are raped, tortured and/or murdered?
There have been allegations and counter-allegations. We have to make sure that these allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action. For example, if one of those people says his house has been burned, is there solid evidence that there was previously a real house there instead of ashes? If so, is there solid evidence that he was the legitimate owner of the house, and not a terrorist trying to hamper the necessary land clearance for the government’s planned special economic zone?
We invite you to join us, to discuss with us, to go with us to the troubled areas – where we can guarantee security for you, which we can’t do, because the army wouldn’t obey even if I told them.
So, really, I want you to study the peaceful areas – how have they managed to keep the peace? How have they managed to preserve harmony? Why are they not at each other’s throats in these particular areas? You may notice that in the peaceful areas, there are none of those people, at least not any more. Need I say more?