The Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, and the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism held press briefings on their 4th-year performances yesterday.
Ministry of Information
Union Minister for Information Dr Pe Myint first introduced the event, saying that the ministries and the Union-level organizations have organized the press briefings since the present government took office. The first press briefing was to mark the 100-days of administration, followed by the second, the third and the fourth press briefings annually.
The press briefings are simultaneous tasks for the Ministry of Information as the first task is to link the public with the government. The elected government is responsible for informing and reporting to the public about their performances for the people, and that it was done by the press briefings.
The second task is making arrangements for media to cover the works of state departments in carrying out the right to information.
The press briefings could introduce the spokespersons of ministries and the Union-level organizations to the media, in developing the culture of such events and to establish a good relationship between media and departmental officials, including their spokespersons. Media personnel could make judgements on the success of these events.
Union Minister Dr Pe Myint continued to say about the ministry that the key tasks of MoI are to inform the public and to enhance public knowledge. Myanma Radio and Television are presenting entertainment programmes every day. The MRTV and the News and Periodicals Enterprise are collecting and broadcasting news, while the Information and Public Relations Department is gathering the news.
The MRTV has made three significant reforms in the 4th-year performances. A new modern studio was inaugurated at its building on Pyay Road in Yangon and has been used since late last year.
The MRTV also switched from SD (standard definition) to HD (high definition) for better quality in its broadcasting. The trial tests were run in late last year, and the new system is a good function at present. Three new DSNG vans are intended for broadcasting more live programmes.
The offices of IPRD are attached to the public libraries. These libraries were transformed into community centres where public meetings could be organized. The events were aimed to promote democratic practices. A modern community centre was established in Bahan Township of Yangon Region. The significant milestone of IPRD is organizing literary festivals and all-round youth development festivals.
One of the remarkable performances in the previous year is the celebration of children’s literary festivals in all the townships of Ayeyawady Region. The IPRD is also working for the development of Myanmar film industry. The film promotion building on Shwetaunggya Road was upgraded into the Film Development Centre to create a motion picture environment, with establishing movie studios which were useful for the film industry. Events for art film analyzing programmes were carried out in this centre. Media personnel and interested persons are invited to the talks on the film industry.
The Printing and Publishing Department is operating printing works for the state organizations, government documents including gazettes, schoolbooks of the Ministry of Education, ballot papers of the Union Election Commission, ballot envelopes for advance voting, marked papers for ballot boxes, as well as publishing the books of Sarpay Beikman, speeches of government leaders, annual reports of government which are displayed at the event, and the 4th-year performances will soon be published and that the media personnel can keep these documents for reference. The PPE has published up to 9th series of the 100-Myanmar Classical Literary Series for Myanmar literature development.
The News and Periodicals Enterprise is publishing the Myanma Alin, the Mirror and the Global New Light of Myanmar dailies. Production of newspapers is carried out overnight, and that weaknesses are caused in some occasions. However, responsible persons are working hard to lessen errors.
The state-owned newspapers are the bridges between the government and the public, covering the works of government leaders, ministries, regional and state governments and the activities of other pillars. Moreover, Hluttaw news and the activities of Hluttaw representatives are covered in these newspapers.
Some pages of newspapers carry supplementary pages of ethnic languages in respective areas, and Mon, Sakaw (Kayin), Poe (Kayin), PaO, Kachin and Rakhine languages are published in the newspapers.
The NPE has allowed using its Shwe U Daung hall in Yangon for talks, promotions and distribution events free of charge.
Regarding the question of the News Watch news journal on the legal dispute between the MoI and the Eleven Media and the private media’s witness list with the Union Minister and the Deputy Minister, the Managing Director of NPE, U Thet Swe, answered that there were 183 court hearings up to 11 June during the six years of legal dispute. Although it was learnt the Eleven Media Group has submitted a request for settling the dispute to the court under the National Case Management Programme, this media group has not informed it to either NPE or the ministry in writing. The ministry has sent a letter to the court to follow the court decision.
The Union Minister and the Deputy Minister has been informed about this, and that they have no plan to give testimony at the court yet.
The RFA news agency raised a query of why phone calls were not available to the contact persons of MoI for news, and why the ministry’s information sector has not improved under this government. Permanent Secretary U Myo Myint Maung answered that the responsible persons replied to the media questions, but some calls might be missed and made return calls. Although some questions could not be answered, nothing was intentionally neglected. It can be assumed that there were weaknesses in releasing information from different departments. However, the ministry did the best in covering COVID-19 news.
Deputy Minister U Aung Hla Tun said that media relations of some state departments have improved under this government which become more proactive online. The Central Statistical Organization, the Myanmar Web portal and the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) are focusing online with update information. Common information can be searched on their websites, and the contact persons of these organizations replied to the questions patiently. Some media persons miss out the important information and data and present what they do want to present. Complaints say that this is ‘out of context’. Media ethics should be followed so as to enhance relations among one another based on mutual trust and respect.
Union Minister Dr Pe Myint said that media personnel should establish relations with the spokespersons who have been suggested to reply media questions on the respective sector; the MoI has arranged press conferences of the government; new spokespersons were also introduced to media; some questions could not be answered while they were engaged in the meetings; phone calls can also be made outside office hours in this situation; phone calls should be made again and again until the responsible persons reply it; if it deems necessary, letters can be sent to the relevant department; if the spokespersons did not answer the phone calls, it is better to inform the ministry in one way or another; the ministry has genuine desire to establish better relations with media.
The Union Daily newspaper asked why constructions of shooting garden in Ottarathiri Township and a law university in Pubbathiri Township although these issues have been answered at the Amyotha Hluttaw.
IPRD Acting Director-General U Aye Kywe replied the ministry has no plan to establish a shooting garden in Ottarathiri, and the stakeholders have visited Nay Pyi Taw to study possibilities for the development of film industry. It is still in the status of the feasibility study. Construction of a law university is not concerned with the MoI.
Myanmar Now news agency asked why the MoI has not given assistance to the private media toppled by the COVID-19 shocks. Union Minister Dr Pe Myint answered that the MoI is concerned with the difficulties of film businesses and media caused by the pandemic. The volume of the film industry is very huge. Some film productions submitted reports on their losses as they could not reopen cinemas and resume shootings.
There are many restrictions during COVID period, and some rules have to be followed from health perspectives although they are not included in the guidelines.
Although the ministry has not assisted, appropriate ways would be searched. Even international film industries have suffered the impacts, and they have suspended their works. The ministry has received reports on preparatory measures for shootings as per healthcare guidelines. Officials are considering their proposals which have already been submitted to the national central committee and the Ministry of Health and Sports. The MoI has no authority to provide direct cash assistance; the private sector has requested for financial relief, for example, the TV channels will have to pay for fees and cash fines for payment delay; the ministry has attested to delayed payment and requests for low-interest loans; the ministry will also provide possible assistance to the media on their suggested relief plan.
The Irrawaddy news agency asked about the businesses of state-owned newspapers. Managing Director of NPE U Thet Swe answered that the NPE is publishing the Mirror, the Myanma Alin and the Global New Light of Myanmar. The NPE has seen no loss in publishing these newspapers. The two Myanmar language newspapers are making profits since they were published, while the Global New Light of Myanmar has fewer number of circulation and has targeted to international readers. There were some business losses in the early years, but some profits came out in the following years. The third annual figures showed some financial losses, and a similar trend is expected this year. However, the profits in the previous two years could cover the existing losses of Global New Light of Myanmar. Efforts are being made to produce more circulations and to increase income from advertisements. Therefore, the NPE is a branch of MoI that is making profiting, while others are providing services.
Regarding the questions how to develop the MoI in providing public service media, the Union Minister said that the state-owned media is linking between the government and the public, with reports on activities of government leaders, state departments and ministries. Editors of relevant newspapers have to present the news in line with the policies, while they have different presentations; the speeches of State Counsellor and participation in events are headlines of the newspapers; posting on social media is aimed for public information; therefore, the state-owned newspapers are covering the news, and presentations will be different from private newspapers which emphasize on criticism.
The Eleven Media asked about the MoI’s budget proposal under the title of Daw Khin Kyi Foundation. Acting Director-General U Aye Kywe of IPRD said the department and the foundation signed MoU in 2013 for works, and launched community centres at the 16 offices of IPRD; while the department’s libraries are transformed into the community centres, computer training courses and vocational training courses are conducted at these centres; mobile libraries were operated in coordination with Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, renting the books at schools and villages.
For enhancing the success of this foundation, plans are being made to conduct other vocational training courses and youth development programmes. And that, the foundation was transferred to the MoI in 2019 for better services.
At that time, the 17 vehicles of the mobile library, computer sets and other related items, worth over K1,000 million, were handed over to the MoI. Some works were being done between the ministry and the foundation when the MoU was signed. Computer trainers and skilled staff members of e-library services for mobile libraries have turned to work at the ministry; material and immaterial property reached the ministry. The items have been listed by the ministry, fuels are needed for mobile libraries, budgets are required to buy books for libraries; these budgets were not for the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, but for the department to be used in line with financial rules; that the news went viral online about the budget proposal for Daw Khin Kyi Foundation was not correct. Instead, the budgets are aimed for the IPRD. A total of 24 daily-waged staff from the foundation have remained in their works.
Finally, Union Minister Dr Pe Myint and officials answered the questions of the news media about MoI’s role in dispute settlements between the private media and the other government organizations, the role of Myanmar Digital News, the two MoUs signed during the visit of Chinese President to Myanmar with MoI, the situation of advertisements in the Myanma Alin and the Mirror.
Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation
The Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation Dr Ye Myint Swe explained the fourth-year performances of the ministry. He said the ministry’s long-term goal is for systematic management of natural resources for this and future generations of the country.
According to the Global Forest Resource Assessment 2015 published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 42.92 per cent of Myanmar is covered in forests. There are open forests and closed forests and the forest resource assessment is published every 5 years.
The ministry managed to expand 26 forest reserves and have completed 25.49 per cent of the nation’s area. The ministry’s objective is for forest reserves to reach 30 per cent of the nation’s area and for environmental conservation land to take up 10 per cent .
The ministry managed to plant 26,093 acres of state-owned plantations with the Re-establishing Natural Habitat Programme in 2019-2020 financial year. The programme includes establishing plantations and dividing forestry conservation into 6 zones, with commencing from 2017-2018. The Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) is currently at 17 per cent for teak and 21.9 per cent for hardwood. The Community Forestry Strategic Action Plan (2018-2020) was published in May 2019 to enable local communities to fulfill their basic forestry needs. In the government’s fourth year the ministry managed to establish more than 87,302 acres of community forests, and form 648 utilization groups and 14,744 members. This means that in the period of four years the number of community forests grew to 714,725 acres while the utilization groups grew to 5432 groups with 138233 members.
The ministry has implemented 31.48 per cent of the 30-years National Forest Master Plan and public participation to apprehend smuggling of wood in 2017 resulted in the success of the Community Monitoring Reporting System. This has led to the confiscation of 49,782.35 tonnes of illegal lumber in the 4th year performances and the arrest of 453 suspects and 2,711 vehicles.
The Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary was designated an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2019 and the Inle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was designated as an East Asia-Australia Asian bird migration route in 2020 and biodiversity programmes began in 2019-2020 to 2028-2029 with 25.97 per cent of the project complete.
Because it is difficult for plants to grow in Myanmar’s Dry Zone, the ministry sought international cooperation to distribute high-powered stoves and have distributed 38,182 stoves in the fourth year. The ministry built 20 small water tanks, 122 retaining walls, 3 wells, 12 5000-gallon rainwater reservoirs, and 1300 100-gallon concrete rainwater reservoirs in the Dry Zone for the fourth year. The ministry has opened 20 elephant camps as of 2018-2019 and Bodhi Tahtaung elephant camp and Zalone Taung elephant camp were opened in the fourth year, making the total number of elephant camps to 22.
The National Environment Affairs Policy, Myanmar Climate Change Policy and Strategy and Master Plan (2018-2030), National Waste Management Strategy and Master Plan (2018-2030) were enacted. The Environmental Conservation Department opened 18 district offices and one township department, the Land Survey Department took ariel photos from 4 January to 24 March in 2020 of the Myanmar-China border joint investigation. They also demarcated the Myanmar-India border from 23 November 2019 to 20 March 2020 and reviewed 36 Myanmar-India border posts, maintenance and construction. Next, Director-General Dr Thet Tin Nyunt explained about permits given to Wuntho Resources Co. Ltd, which has 90 per cent owned by Brisbane based PanAust Co. Ltd and 10 per cent by Myanmar Resources Energy Group International Co. Ltd, and registered in DICA on 26 February 2015. The regional government asked for comments on the company’s area of work in 4 March 2019 for the 775,05 square miles 151,514.855 acres it owned and the Sagaing Region government said there was no problem.
The Environmental Conservation Department approved the company’s EMP and the Forestry Department reduced 3,832 forestry acres. Which is why 187,682.855 acres of the original 191,514.855 acres. The list of virgin, fallow, and vacant lands in the allotted lands have been submitted to the Central Committee on Managing Virgin, Fallow and Vacant Land.
The mineral affairs management committee and Union government’s decided to sign an agreement to reduce mining in areas with less mineral production, meaning there will 1.5 per cent of the current work area. The surrounding area had the UNDP and geological research and mineral searching department conduct a Geological Survey Exploration Project (GSEP) between 1974 and 1978. The area had gold and copper found and to sign separate contracts only when commercial minerals are found.
There is no permit for mining yet and less likelihood for environmental damage. The foreign income from this foreign investment will contribute to the national GDP and increase job opportunities for local residents. The first step was to receive the US$ 178,593.34 as the contract signing fees, K28.42 million for the first land grant for 2020-2021 and K80.12 million for forest grant in 2020-2021.
Dr Ye Myint Swe then replied to permits for Wuntho Resources Co. Ltd’s permits for working in Bamauk, Wuntho and Pinlebu townships in Sagaing Region without submitting to Myanmar Investment Commission. He said as it was the exploration state and feasibility study to ascertain the costs, there was no need to report to MIC.
Ministry of Hotels and Tourism
Deputy Minister U Tin Latt explained the fourth year performance of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. He said they began implementing community based tourism in 2015. He said they opened 19 CBT sites including 42 villages of Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Shan states and Yangon, Mandalay, Magway, Taninthayi, and Sagaing regions, and an additional 7 CBT sites with 10 villages. He said over 50,000 domestic and foreign tourists had visited the CBT sites as of February 2020.
The ministry arranged tour guide training courses, language classes, and tourism police courses across the nation. The ministry cooperated with Luxembourg Development to open courses for Train the Trainer, Assistant Cook, Passenger Fares and Ticketing, and Travel and Tour. The ministry also cooperated with Swiss Contact to open online courses for Digital Marketing Training and Supervisory Skills Training.
The ministry utilized digital marketing to promote Myanmar’s tourism and launched the website www.tourism.gov.mm on 10 April 2019 and is available in Myanmar, English, Korean, Japanese, German, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Russian, and Italian. He said there 3,551,424 foreign visitors into Myanmar in 2018 and increased to 4,364,101 in 2019 and put Myanmar into the 20 quickest developing nations by UNWTO. The 2020-2030 Tourism Master Plan has been enacted and the ministry has implemented the Hotel Guest List Management System across the states and regions. The fourth-year performances press conferences of the Union Government will continue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/International Cooperation, Union Attorney-General Office, and Union Civil Service Board. —Han Myo Soe, Kaytar (Translated by Aung Khin, Zaw Htet Oo)