The press conference on the third-year journey of the Ministry of the State Counsellor Office, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation was held at the Ministry of Information’s meeting hall in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor
Director-General U Zaw Htay said the Ministry of the State Counsellor Office (MoSCO) addressed challenges and future tasks of the national peace process, the complexity of the situation in Rakhine State, and the threats and challenges to national security.
He said the incumbent government has prioritized national reconciliation and the peace process. He said the first aim is to bring ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) who have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) to sign it. He said the second aim is to maintain the ceasefire agreement and ensure no more conflicts arise.
He said the third aim is to the implement the political dialogue of the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong. He said the fourth aim is to acquire a common agreement on democratic and federal principles in the Union Accord.
He said the fifth aim is to ensure the ethnic people residing in ceasefire regions can benefit from peace. He said the sixth aim is to implement the democratic transition and federal establishment in line with the Union Accord.
U Zaw Htay said the ministry has set three phases for interacting with non-signatories to the NCA. He said there is a need for another ceasefire agreement to end ongoing conflicts with the Northern Alliance.
He said there is a need to build trust first and that they are negotiating military agreements and the affairs of local residents and IDPs in those regions. He said the next step is to sign a bilateral agreement to discuss federal fundamental principles for finding political solutions with the NCA being the next step after that.
U Zaw Htay said there have been 206 clashes with AA resulting in nearly 100 AA members dead and 48 captured alive. He said there were 21 bombing incidents with 9 attacks on Tatmadaw convoys and columns and 9 landmine attacks on police officers and civilians from the AA.
He said there are IDP camps opened in seven townships of Rakhine State and in Chin State’s Paletwa. He said there are currently 33,000 IDPs living in those camps.
The Director-General then answered to questions asking whether the Tatmadaw officers who had charges pressed against them concerning affairs of Inndin village, Rakhine State, were released or not. He also answered to questions asking about the delay in the peace process, the content of the President’s speech delivered during his meeting with government staff in Nay Pyi Taw Council, the ongoing arrest for monk U Wirathu, the number of foreign advisors appointed to Union-level organizations and the appointment policy, the entry of terrorists from Malaysia and the Union Government’s preparations for protection, the management process for ensuring later issues do not arise from arresting extreme nationalist movements, whether a new minister position will be expanded for governing the subnational general administration departments, the process of relinquishing confiscated lands and swiftly returning them to the original owners, whether the financial difference between the States and Regions during the change in government will be properly explained to the public, how the Union Government will address the budgets for the subnational government that are still not handed over, the discussions to be held with the Northern Alliance, the conflicts between the Tatmadaw and AA, and whether updates will be released on the Myitsone issue.
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture
Deputy Minister U Kyi Min said the ministry organizes State-level ceremonies for donating Kathina robes and Waso robes at the Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Taw in July and November every year.
In addition, they confer religious titles on outstanding Buddhist monks, nuns and lay persons at home and abroad on 4th January on Independence Day every year. For 2019, the titles were conferred on 254 monks, 14 nuns and 93 lay persons on 20 March 2019.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture is building a pagoda namely the Eternal Peace Pagoda in Dakkhinathiri Township in Nay Pyi Taw and religious objects will be fixed atop the pagoda this year to complete the pagoda. The Eternal Peace Pagoda will be built on the 1.3 acres of land and it will be 54 ft high when completed.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar delegation led by State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee Chairman Sayadaw Dr. Bhaddanta Kumara Bhivamsa and Union Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko attended the New Year’s Eve Recitation and Vipasana Meditation Ceremony held in Bangkok from 28th December, 2018 to 2nd January 2019.
The ministry launched the project to renew the gold plates on the Shwedagon Pagoda and opened the machinery for making gold plates at the pagoda on 13 December, 2018.
The pagoda will be covered in scaffolding during the six-month project and about 3,000 gold plates will be screwed on it.
For 2018-2019 Shwedagon Pagoda gold plate renovation works, a central committee, work committee and ten sub-committees were formed and assigned different duties and responsibilities.
As part of efforts for unity of all interfaith in Myanmar, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture formed the Interfaith Friendship and Unity Group (Myanmar) with representatives from different religions in Myanmar. There are 130 township-level committees under the group. The interfaith group carried out 32 activities for unity and friendship of the interfaith in Myanmar in three years.
The ministry is working together with religious organizations. At the invitation of the Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the delegation of the Religions for Peace led by Bishop Gunnar visited Myanmar from 22 to 28 May last year and visited Sittway during the visit.
Union Minister Thura U Aung Ko and officials of the ministry visited Rakhine State from 29 to 30 September last year and handed over K1.33 billion equivalent to US$100,000 donated by His Holiness Pope Francis through Cardinal Charles Maung Bo.
The ministry formed the national level committee to review the human rights situation in Myanmar under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. At the first meeting the committee, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture was tasked to implement the friendship of all interfaith and freedom of expression, which is suggestion No. 10 of the 166 suggestions of the UN Human Rights Council.
The ministry has been collecting antiques offering cash prizes to the people. About 3,615 kinds of antiques have been collected from 96 people at the cost of over K233 million. So far, 1471 kinds of antique have been collected by the ministry and displayed the tangible and intangible cultural heritage at the museums.
Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation
Deputy Permanent Secretary U Hla Tun said this year, 7,137 acres of rice were planted and yielded 5,805,620 baskets of paddy. In relation to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), the ministry managed to advertise 15 different crops and this year they will open training courses and build capacity.
As GAP priority land, they planted 1,558 acres of rainy season peanuts, 325 acres of rainy season sesame, 325 acres of winter peanuts, 65 acres of winter sesame and 83 acres of winter sunflowers. The MoALI gave 1,538 GAP training classes, 1,383 seed production classes, 1,075 seed protection technology classes, 1,383 other technical classes, and conducted 26,280 cultivator discussions.
The ministry has issued 253 GAP certificates as of February and successfully developed one village per township as a role model using advanced technologies. The Vegetables and Fruits Research and Development Centre announced the Myanmar organic standards on 26 January 2019 and organized a horticultural fair. The Fertilizer Committee issued 1,197 registrations.
As of now, the ministry has issued Form-7 to 6,028,090 farmers for a combined land area of 25,206,274 acres, said U Hla Tun. He said they have issued Form-7 for 246,309 acres belonging to 59,548 farmers this year. Over the three years, the ministry has issued 967,101 Form-7 to 215,190 farmers.
U Hla Tun said the ministry has submitted the Bill Amending the 2012 Farmland Law to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. The Bill Amending the 2012 Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land with Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Law No. 24 and they are working to amend its related bylaw.
The Department of Irrigation and Water Utilization Management facilitated irrigation from dam water for 1.392 million acres of summer crops and other crops and for 1.23 million acres of monsoon crops in 2017-2018. In this summer, they have provided dam water to 1.41 million acres of summer crops and other crops.
U Hla Tun said they will complete the water system and irrigation channels from South Nawin, North Nawin, Wae Gyi, and Taung Nyo dams in eastern Bago Region within this year. This will provide enough irrigation to 216,285 acres of farmlands.
U Hla Tun said the ministry has cooperated with UNICEF to provide access to clean drinking water in rural areas. They drew a programme for rural water supply and investment and conducted 1,051 water access projects in 989 villages. This has benefitted 708,000 people. We will continue about 2,209 water access projects in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population
U Myo Aung, Permanent Secretary for Labour Affairs, said between 1 April 2018 and 28 February 2019, there were over 9054 additional positions open in the government offices with 216,391 openings in the private sector. There is a total of 269 agencies that help employ people from Myanmar abroad legally. Last year, Myanmar sent up to 228,162 workers abroad. He said the ministry also helped establish 251 new worker unions, 10 job fairs in over 3 regions and states and helped filled 2210 positions.
The Ministry is issuing Certificate Of Identity to workers currently in Thailand with no proper documentation. There were 9 mobile centers that issued these certificates with over 66,000 certificates issued between 11 March 2018 to 30 June 2018 and a total 263,135 OWIC cards issued from 1 April 2018 to 28 February 2019.
For workers who hold the TR-38 cards, the Myanmar embassy is now allowing Myanmar passport holders to renew their passwords with proper documentation.
Myanmar has also signed respective MOUs with the Republic of Korea and Japan to allow workers from Myanmar to have access to employment and training centers the countries.
U Myo Aung said the ministry is trying to train their Labour Exchange officers, general administration officers and ward and village administrators to be able to provide accurate and relevant information on safe migration to potential migrants and their families. He said this will hopefully help them make more informed choices and avoid traffickers and other illicit agencies.
Within the 3rd year of the current administration, there were over 1,239,229 people who were reimbursed medical costs from 32,119 offices. Over K391 million covered medical costs for 8,359 cases and K10,709 million more paid for 221,859 cases as damages. The ministry is trying to reform its IT system to makes things more stream — lined and efficient in addition to the medical reform to create a provider-purchaser split system for healthcare.
There is also a 2018-2023 project roadmap to eradicate child labor and the ministry is currently drawing up a step-by-step plan to achieve the objectives in the roadmap, said U Myo Aung. There is currently a draft regarding child labor in over 20 industries and 108 sub categories and is expected to come out in early 2019.
U Myo Aung said the ministry added two additional types of visa for family and guests of diplomats and added two more countries (Ukraine, Russia) to 53 countries eligible for Visa on Arrival. The VOA is available in Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw international airports for different types of visa.
Since the implementation of visa on arrival, Myanmar have received over US$19 million from 398,213 world travelers. E-visas are available for tourists from 100 countries and 55 countries for business visas from 3 international airports and Myanmar-Thai and Myanmar-India international checkpoints. Express e-tourist visas are available as well within 24 hours. Myanmar have received over US$42 million from over 1.1 million visitors.
Afterwards, the officials replied to questions from the media. —Tun Nanda (Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)