The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and the Ministry of Transport and Communications held press briefings on their 4th–year performances yesterday.
Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture
Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture U Kyi Min talked about the Union government’s Waso robe offering ceremony organized by the ministry at the Uppatasanti Pagoda in Nay Pyi Taw, conferring religious titles to 343 monks, 25 nuns and 147 laypersons in 2020, presenting advanced level certificates in 2019, holding the 72nd Tipitaka examination this year.
He also presented renovation of landmark Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon and donation of gold plates at the pagoda; K15.676 billion of public donation to Kyaikhtiyoe pagoda in 2019 under the new trustee board which was reorganized with 11 members on 23 August 2016 after cancelling contract system for the donation, and arranged free accommodation with the daily capacity of 1,279 visitors.
The ministry also managed in the construction of Eternal Peace pagoda in Dekkhinathiri Township of Nay Pyi Taw at the cost of K8.33 billion, including the contributions of well-wishers.
Establishment of inter-faith friendship programme was 121 in township level, 40 in district level, 11 in region/state level and 1 in central level. The ministry also supported in organizing the first Religions for Peace Advisory Forum organized by the Religions for Peace Myanmar on 21 November 2018 at MICC-II in Nay Pyi Taw, its second edition on 7 May 2019 and the third edition on 19 November.
Regarding cultural affairs, the ministry could try to include ancient capital of Bagan into the UN Cultural Heritage list at the 43rd session of World Heritage Committee held in Azerbaijan from 30 June to 10 July. A draft version of Nomination Dossier for MraukU Cultural Area was also submitted to the UNESCO in September 2019 for the World Heritage list, and preparations for its final version. The Ananda Candra stone inscription in MraukU has been included in the list of Asia-Pacific Memory heritage list and it will be submitted to the UNESCO for the Memory of the World.
The Department of Archaeology and National Museum is presenting honourary cash awards for the cultural items as a move to prevent trafficking of these materials. The department presented K246.85 million for 9,680 items and 50 antique materials in the fourth year.
The ministry also conserved 2,289 tangible and intangible items of cultural heritages from 2016 to 2019, and held workshops to submit Myanmar Thanakha on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list.
The ministry will also repair 11 remaining pagodas out of 389 damaged in the earthquake on 24 August 2016, and renovate the National Library in Yangon, Renovation of the 28-year old National Theatre has begun on 10 August 2019, and the project is expected to last for two years.
The deputy minister also briefed on arts school in Yangon and Mandalay, arts and dance courses of basic and higher levels and conducting diploma and advanced levels of arts at the National University of Arts and Culture in Yangon and Mandalay.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture is working for propagation and perpetuation of Buddha Sasana which is the major religion of the country in line with Article 34 of State Constitution, while coordinating with other faiths for lasting friendship as per Article 361 of the State Constitution. The Union Minister is also working together with members of Sangha, layperson and other religious leaders for prevention of conflicts caused by the religious affairs.
The Deputy Minister also explained the remaining 20 per cent to finalize nomination procedure draft of MraukU cultural area for the World Heritage is on the side of locals, and field surveys must be conducted by the ministerial staff and UNESCO experts, however, it is not possible to do so due to security reasons.
He also answered to the questions about fire and theft of relics at the temples in Bagan, prevention of religious conflicts before and post 2020 General Election, security measures of Bagan area, legal actions against gathering for religious purpose that breached rules for COVID-19, the remark of ministry on the two fugitives from justice, construction of residential buildings in monastery compounds and the time for reopening of pagodas and religious sites.
Ministry of Transport and Communications
Permanent Secretary U Win Khant explained the 4th performances of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. He said their transport infrastructure projects follow the National Transport Master Plan and it’s auxiliary plan.
He said the Myanma Railways began upgrading the Yangon circular train in 2017 with loans from Japan’s ODA and national budget and is estimated to be completed in 2021. He said they have completed 51 out of 59 miles and put up 42 miles of brick walls and 8 miles of fencing to keep squatters out.
The Yangon-Mandalay railway upgrade project is also done with Japan’s ODA loan in two phases starting from 2017 and will require repairing 202 culverts and constructing 35 large bridges in the first phase. The second phase for Toungoo-Mandalay railway is underway and is waiting for tender applications. The entire project is expected to finish around 2023.
A South Korean engineering team was called in to assess the Mandalay-Myitkyina railway upgrade project twice and concluded that a tunnel, a large bridge and two new train stations are needed for the rough terrain along the Nankhan-Bonchaung and Mawhan-Kadu sections. A loan agreement with ROK-based EXIM Bank has been signed for US$125 million for this purpose.
Similarly, negotiations are underway for acquiring an Asian Development Bank loan for upgrading the Yangon-Pyay railway, upgrading the Bago-Mawlamyine and Bago-Thaton railways are complete, and Thaton-Mawlamyine railway will be completed within this year.
The Road Transport Administration Department managed to reduce traffic accidents in line with international standards while the Union budget was used for 69 waterway maintenance projects and state/regional government funds were used for 964 projects to prevent bank erosion with priority given to densely populated locations along the Ayeyawady, Chindwin, Mu and Dokhtawaddy rivers.
The Twantay canal development project was initiated with US$ 61.3 million from South Korean EDCF loan and US$ 7.942 million from the national budget and is expected to finish by 2023. A port in Mandalay was completed for container transportation as an inland jetty and ports are being constructed in Monywa, Pakokku, and Bhamo.
A total of 76,532 feet of retaining walls have been constructed within 4 years to prevent the banks on Myanmar’s side of rivers and creeks shared with other nations from eroding and thus losing national territory. Beginning in May 2018, the river current in Yangon jetty has been stabilized to a point and with help from Japan, the Navigation Aid in Yangon River is continuing. A survey and drafting of a master plan for the jetty’s infrastructure is under way from October 2019 to October 2020 with cooperation from USAID.
There were 11.3 million entries and exits combined across the international and domestic airports of the nation in 2019. A PPP tender auction for the highly traveled domestic airports in Heho, Mawlamyine and Kawthoung have been called. The Thandwe Airport will have its runway extended and terminal upgraded within two years while G to G coordination for Hanthawaddy Airport are in process with the government of Japan. Myanmar National Airlines flies to 28 cities in Myanmar and has international flights to Singapore, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hong Kong, Chengdu, and Gaya.
Two domestic companies and two foreign companies have been given Nationwide Telecommunication licences to promote private sector participation in the communications sector. There are 4 similar work licenses given to 205 domestic and foreign companies. The Myanmar e-Governance Master Plan is being implemented with the important Integrated Data Center to be completed in Nay Pyi Taw by 2022.
Myanmar’s postal services began back in the colonial era but has been improved and upgraded to meet modern needs and standards. There are currently 1,389 post offices across the nation and 841 of them now provide financial services. Myanmar climbed up to the 91st place in the Universal Postal Union’s ranking for 2018 from 126th in 2016. Next, Managing Director U Ba Myint of Myanma Railways replied to questions from the media on the Muse-Mandalay railway project. He said a feasibility study was completed and a survey for human and environmental impact is continuing. He said this project is restarting a second time with a feasibility study completed in 2010 as well. He said they will go through with the project if it will benefit border trade but currently Switzerland is giving support as a third party.
Permanent Secretary U Soe Thein of MoTC then replied to a question on the internet shutdown in Rakhine State. He said several townships have had their internet shut down but Maungtaw Township had it reopened not too long ago. He said they have orders to continue the shutdown till 1 August. He said this was done to protect the public and if this measure can be proved to be unnecessary then it will be lifted.
The Ministry of Ethnic Affairs, the Ministry of Education, the Nay Pyi Taw Council and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement will hold their press briefings on 12 June.—Han Myo Soe, K Tar (Translated by Aung Khin, Zaw Htet Oo)