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Citing lack of progress, secretary to Myanmar’s Rohingya panel quits

The Thai secretary to an international panel set up by Myanmar to advise on the Rohingya crisis quit his post, dealing another blow to the credibility of a body meant to demonstrate the government’s commitment to resolving the issue.

Explaining his decision Kobsak Chutikul, a retired ambassador and former member of Thailand’s parliament, told Reuters the panel of foreign and local experts, which met for the third time in the capital Naypyitaw this week, had “been kept on a short leash” and achieved little in the six months since its formation in January.

Kobsak said he quit on July 10, but his departure has not previously been made public.

The panel was set up by the Myanmar government and supposed to advise it on how to implement the recommendations of an earlier commission, headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on solving the crisis in its western Rakhine, which has been riven by ethnic and religious tensions for years.
Kobsak said the panel had been barred from accepting international funding or setting up a permanent office and told to conduct meetings online. Representatives of the army have refused to meet the board. A military spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.

“Well, what are they doing? Having lavish dinners in Naypyitaw and this and that, flying around,” Kobsak said. “The danger now is that it’s going to divert attention from the issues, give a false impression that things are being done.”

A local member of the panel, Win Mra, the chairman of Myanmar’s National Human Rights Commission, rejected the criticism, saying the panel was getting things done.

“The government is implementing our suggestions and the developments can be seen,” he said, when asked about Kobsak’s criticisms. “You cannot say there is no development.”

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay could not be reached for comment on Friday as his phone was switched off.

Myanmar faced renewed criticism from human rights investigators this week over the exodus of around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled a sweeping army crackdown last year in Rakhine state that the U.N. has termed “ethnic cleansing”.

Read more from source: REUTERS

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