Myanmar officials attended the 57th Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in the East and South-East Asia (CCOP) Annual Session and the 77th CCOP Steering Committee Meeting organized via video link at CCOP headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand and Hanoi, Viet Nam from 23 to 25 November.
On 11 November, Cambodia hosted the 27th ASEAN Transport Ministers Meeting together with the ASEAN-China Transport Ministers Meeting and the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC) on the same day. A Myanmar delegation led by Union Minister for Transport and Communications Admiral Tin Aung San attended the meetings together with the Transport Ministers of 10 ASEAN countries and China including the ASEAN Secretary-General and officials of US-ABC. Admiral Tin Aung San also attended the 19th ASEAN-Japan Transport Ministers Meeting and the 12th ASEAN-ROK Transport Ministers Meeting on 12 November.
Union Minister for Industry Dr Charlie Than, in his capacity as Vice-President of Federation of Engineering Institutions of Asia and Pacific and Patron of Myanmar Engineering Council, joined the 13th Executive Board Meeting of Federation of Engineering Institutions of Asia and Pacific (FEIAP) which was virtually organized in Malaysia on 26 November.
Also, during November, Myanmar officials of the ministries concerned attended the Fourth World Media Summit hosted by China on 22 November; the 22nd ASEAN Federation of Accountants Conference co-hosted by Myanmar on 25 November, and the Virtual Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Destination Marketing Forum-2021 on 24 November.
Mr Yohei Sasakawa, Special Envoy of the Japanese Government for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of Nippon Foundation of Japan arrived in Sittway of Rakhine State on 15 November. The Special Envoy and his team met with the displaced people living in Aungmye Bawdi Dhamma Yeiktha Alotawpyae Monastery and Otthalin Monastery and the Bengalis living in the IDP camp of Thetkaipyin Village and discussed food, living conditions and health issues. The Japanese Special Envoy also gave interviews to the media outlets regarding his visit to Myanmar.
Response to Allegations
On 5 November, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a Communiqué regarding statements issued by certain governments on incidents in Chin State and north-western Myanmar. The Communiqué provided detailed records on the Thantlang incident where the Chin terrorist groups had attacked the security forces first and had burned down the town themselves. Only if those governments and embassies violating international diplomatic norms treat Myanmar with the same courtesy due to any sovereign government, can improve collaboration and engagement be expected. In this connection, the Ministry called on the embassies to respect the sovereignty and integrity of the host country as well as to observe and follow the Charter of the United Nations and the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
On 19 November, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement rejecting the resolution “Situation of Human Rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar”, which was adopted without a vote on 17 November 2021 at the Third Committee of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The Ministry noted that the resolution did not reflect the Myanmar government’s efforts to bring stability and rule of law for its people and that the resolution was based on unreliable sources and unfounded allegations by certain opposition groups, unlawful associations and terrorist and armed groups. The resolution further ignored the indiscriminate violence committed by the terrorist groups CRPH, NUG and PDF which killed over 1,300 innocent civilians including Sanghas (monks), teachers, medical workers, administrative staff and politicians from different political parties. The resolution emanated from the 2017 incidents in Northern Rakhine State when terrorist attacks were launched by ARSA aka Aqua Mul Mujahidin. Successive resolutions ignored the true facts, such as the hundreds from the Hindu communities who were subject to ARSA violence, and the return of over 700 displaced Bengalis to Myanmar under their own volition. As the resolution called for external mechanisms with no respect for Myanmar’s sovereign integrity, Myanmar categorically rejected the resolution and dissociates itself from its adoption of it.
On 27 November, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement, noting that some countries including the United States of America had issued a joint statement on 26 November regarding the situation in Myanmar. The joint statement contained sweeping and groundless accusations against the Tatmadaw such as human rights violations and disproportionate use of force. The accusations are based on allegations emanating from groups who themselves are committing terrorist acts. The Myanmar security forces exercise utmost restraint and only use minimal and appropriate force when discharging their main duty of ensuring peace, stability, security and rule of law of the country. The failure of these countries to condemn and call for the cessation of terrorist activities by these terrorist groups, including the killings of innocent civilians, show the joint statement to be one-sided and biased.
On 26 November, the Information Team of the State Administration Council held its 10/2021 press conference. The team leader briefed the media that Myanmar had objected to the actions of some ASEAN member countries on matters of representation, including the participation in the ASEAN summit, which are inconsistent with the ASEAN Charter and Principles and against the purpose of ASEAN and the history of cooperation with ASEAN. He also provided the latest information on the reopening of schools, the proven support to PDF terrorist groups from NUG and CRPH, the capture of Phyo Zeya Thaw, a prominent NLD Hluttaw representative, who had orchestrated several terrorist attacks and murders in Yangon, the seizures of large quantities of firearms and explosives and the capture of several other terrorists, based on information resulting from Phyo Zeya Thaw’s capture.
At the press conference, Commission member U Khin Maung Oo of the Union Election Commission (UEC) presented the UEC’s work on the inspection of existing political party lists, consultations on the use of the proportional representation system, the review of laws and regulations, the actions taken against those who had committed illegal actions and voter fraud in connection with the 2020 multiparty democracy general elections.
Consultations on the Electoral System
An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. On 5 November, the UEC organized a consultation with representatives of political parties and other stakeholders to gather their views of the prospective electoral system for the next elections. During the consultation, participants discussed the proportional representation system. Following the motion of the National Development and Peace Party to dissolve its own party, which had been registered as a political party with the UEC, the party was removed from the political party registration list and dissolved on 16 November 2021.
Efforts by Ministries and State Institutions
Union Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations U Aung Naing Oo conducted a tour of investment companies in the Yangon Region, including a local industrial waste collection and disposal service company and TYTC Services Company Limited. With a view to finding solutions, the Union Minister discussed the various difficulties these companies were encountering after receiving permission from the Myanmar Investment Commission. The Union Minister also visited Colgate-Palmolive (Myanmar) Limited and observed the factory operations and production. During the visit to SC Auto (Myanmar) Co., Ltd, which assembles and manufactures passenger vehicles and provides repair and maintenance services, he discussed investment and business-related issues.
The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) issued Notification No.43/2021, which came into effect on 3 November 2021. The Notification stipulates that cash payments for the purchase, sales and transfer of basic goods, services or other types do not exceed K20 million per transaction. Where the amount due exceeds K20 million per transaction, the Notification states that digital payment methods, including mobile banking, internet banking, card payment, or account transfer, should be utilized.
On 14 November Union Minister for Hotels and Tourism Dr Htay Aung attended the Ngapali Beach Early Cold Season Festival. On 15 November, the Union Minister attended the Travel Season Opening Ceremonies for Ngwehsaung Beach held at Yamonna Oo Resort, and for Chaungtha Beach held at Azura Hotel. All events were held in line with the COVID-19 prevention guidelines. The Union Minister emphasized challenges that the hotel and tourism sector would need to address, such as waste disposal, air pollution and landscape changes caused by the construction of buildings. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has established health and safety protocols to provide safe services to tourists and staff from the hotel and tourism industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak brought about the temporary closing of the Myanmar-China border for the import and export of goods, at Muse (Mang Wein checkpoint), Kyinsankyawt and Kyukok-Pangsai border crossings in April and July 2021. Kyinsankyawt and Chinshwehaw trading posts were reopened on 26 November.
Union Minister for Commerce Dr Pwint San met with the Myanmar commercial attaches working in 13 foreign countries to promote trade and export Myanmar products on 23 November. At the meeting, the Union minister discussed issues such as collaboration with relevant government departments and organizations in the respective countries, trade and investment cooperation, market availability, identification of new markets, quality of goods and products, and food security situations.
At the second meeting (2/2021) of the Working Committee on Geological Parks held on 24 November, it was proposed that 15 “geosites” in Kyaukpadaung Township, Mandalay Region, would be established within the Popa Region National Geopark in Myanmar. These “geosites” are sites of special interest (internationally defined as sites geological or geomorphological interest. or of conservation interest). Since 2017, Myanmar media had been reporting that the Popa region would be submitted to UNESCO to be nominated for “UNESCO Geopark” status. However, much work is needed before submission to UNESCO. Myanmar and Popa do not yet appear as a candidate on the UNESCO nominations list for 2021. This is a goal well worth pursuing since designation as a world-class geopark would boost tourism and the well-being and livelihoods of local communities in the region.
Union Minister for Border Affairs Lieutenant-General Tun Tun Naung and officials inspected training schools in Ayeyawady Region from 26 to 28 November. In the aftermath of the Nargis Cyclone in 2008, the Ministry of Border Affairs had set up ethnic youth development training schools (one each in Bogale and Maubin), women’s vocational training schools (one each in Pathein and Labutta), and one vocational school in Labutta. These schools have been operating since then and providing local ethnic youth and young women with essential training in basic education and vocational courses.
The Union Civil Service Board is working to select qualified candidates who wish to apply for vacant positions in various ministries. The Central Institute of Civil Service for Upper Myanmar and Central Institute of Civil Service for Lower Myanmar have been opening management training courses and advanced diploma courses in civil service management.
The Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science and Technology are appointing new teachers for universities, colleges, and basic education schools. New teachers are being provided with training this month. On 11 November, Union Minister for Education Dr Nyunt Pe met with newly appointed teachers at Toungoo University and Toungoo Education Degree College.
Union Minister for Science and Technology Dr Myo Thein Kyaw undertook an inspection tour to Mandalay Technological University, Myanmar Information and Technological University, Technological University (Yadanabon Cyber City), Mandalay University of Computer Studies, and Government Technical Institute (PyinOoLwin) from 24 to 26 November. During his tour, the Union Minister addressed issues such as the teaching-learning environment, especially information communication technology teaching-learning, human resources improvement, and enhanced collaboration and coordination with international universities.
The Ministry of Education has announced that applications for the 2022 Matriculation Examinations must be submitted between 15 and 30 December 2021. Those applying for these examinations as external candidates were urged to buy the application forms at the respective township education offices and ensure timely submission of the forms.
On 12 November, the Ministry of Labour held a coordination meeting on the issue of Myanmar migrant workers. At the meeting, Union Minister for Labour U Myint Kyaing, the Vice-Chairman of the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation and the officials concerned underscored the need to implement or adhere to laws, rules and regulations issued by the government when sending workers abroad. The meeting also discussed the preparations for ensuring timely resolution of labour issues (if any) between employers and migrant workers and expediting the repatriation of returning migrant workers.
In the third week of November, the Union Minister for Construction gave instructions for the project implementers to strictly follow the Myanmar Investment Commission laws in implementing the Taungthaman Thitsar Rural Resort project in Amarapura Township, Mandalay Region.
The Ministry of Cooperatives and Rural Development is undertaking coordination and monitoring the implementation of the “Smart Village” in the second week of November. The project is planned to be expanded to other regions and states, and it will be implemented in three villages Pyinmana Township, Lewe Township, and Tatkon Township.
On 24 November, Union Minister for Cooperatives and Rural Development U Hla Moe led a coordination meeting on the implementation of Smart Village.
(To be continued)