Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor: Working in full swing for Peace and the Rule of Law, while implementing policy guidelines of State Counsellor
State Counsellor Law was enacted on 6 April 2016 and formed the Ministry of the State Counsellor Office in the Union of Myanmar.
In accordance with the article (3) of the State Counsellor Law, speedy implementations are going on with the main objectives such as “The law was drawn up with the aim of ensuring a multi-party democratic system, a market economic system, a federal Union, peace and development in the Union.”
Shouldering the onerous duty for the fourth year, the Ministry of the State Counsellor of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar serves and supports in top gear to the enormous obligations of the State Counsellor.
Fourth year performances of the Ministry are being spelled out by Deputy Minister U Khin Maung Tin, and that the data and information are submitted to the esteemed readers and the people.
Systematically, the Ministry is carrying out the coordination role with relevant ministries and relevant bodies over the implementation of policy guidelines as directed by the State Counsellor. In other words, the performances of the Ministry are on the same tract with the work of the State Counsellor.
Implementation of objectives
Implementation of three objectives namely peace, economic development, and democracy, the road to success is that only when the country is in peace and stability, the economy would grow in vigor. Similarly, only when the peace is achieve, the process in the building of the democratic federal union would be smooth. Therefore, the three main objectives are to be dealt as one.
On 4 February 2020, U Min Lwin is appointed and beefed up as Deputy Minister of the Ministry of State Counsellor to concentrate more on the national reconciliation; the social cohesion and harmony; and matters on international court of justice.
Priority given on peace process
Since the advent of incumbent Government, the peace process of the country has been given priority in its policy guidelines. The government formed an 11-member National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on 11 July 2016.
National Reconciliation Process and the Union Peace Process are the initial steps that the NRPC stepped ahead.
The Peace Commission was formed on 11 July with the aim of facilitating the ongoing peace talks.
The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) seeks to achieve a negotiated settlement between the government of Myanmar and non-state ethnic armed organizations (EAOs). The negotiations are ongoing for achieving sustainable peace.
Inclusion and participation of NCA non-signatory organizations in the political framework is the main concern of the government, and that the leaders of EAOs are keeping in touch for building trust.
Emphasis is being given to put under the NCA umbrella, and to invite all to the negotiation table.
The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) was formed under the NCA and that the body is undertaking the political discussions so far. Chaired by the State Counsellor, the UPDJC consisted of (16) Representatives from the Government, the Hluttaw and the Tatmadaw; (16) Representatives from the EAOs; and (16) representatives from the political parties; totaling (48) Representatives.
The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signed on 15 October 2015 by the Union of Myanmar Government and 8 Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) created two major joint bodies: the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) and the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC). The JMC includes union, state and local levels to implement ceasefire monitoring at different levels.
JMC-U, in order to implement its function has established Technical Secretariat Center (TSC). TSC is a technical body to advise and support the JMC to oversee, coordinate and integrate the implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement of 15 October 2015, Military Code of Conduct of 18 November 2015 and Terms of Reference of the Joint Monitoring Committee of 18 November 2015.
Helping the social life of the nationalities
On one hand, the political discussion is ongoing, and that on the other hand, the internally displaced people in the conflicts zones are being assisted for their food, clothing and shelters through the domestic funds and foreign assisted aids.
In accordance with the “Bilateral Agreement” signed with the EAOs, they are officially provided with the funds available.
Reintegration of the internally displaced people is being carried out by assisting through the building of basic infrastructure, road communication, agriculture, education, and health and development projects in coordination among various bodies.
Journey of the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong
The Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panlong was a peace conference held from 31 August to 4 September 2016 at the Myanmar Convention Centre 2 in Nay Pyi Taw.
It was attended by the NCA signatories EAOs as well as non-signatories EAOs. The conference was transmitted live from the TV, which resulted in the comprehension of the people over the stand and viewpoint of the nationalities and the different bodies, drawing enormous interest of the public.
Agreement of Federal Basic Principle
The Second Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong was held from 24 to 29 May 2017 in Nay Pyi Taw.
On 29 May, the high-profile second meeting of the Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong drew to a successful close, having made breakthroughs in advancing Myanmar’s peace and national reconciliation.
The 37 adopted principles out of 41, resulting from state and regional level political dialogue, included 12 within the political sector; (11) from economic sector; (4) from social sector; (10) from land and natural environment sector.
They are signed as a Part One of the Pyidaungsu Accord. These achievements of (37) principles are of historic significance in the peace process of Myanmar, and of first agreement for federal basic principle.
The Third Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong was held from 11 to 16 July 2018 in Nay Pyi Taw.
In the Pyidaungsu Accord Part Two, the agreements included (4) within the political sector; (1) from economic sector; (7) from social sector; (2) from land and natural environment sector; totaling (14) agreements.
The Fourth Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong is to be held in 2020, and that the Pyidaungsu Accord Part Three would be included.
During the administration of the incumbent government, the vital agreements are achieved in political sector, reflecting a manifestation that nothing is impossible for collective endeavor.
Future steps for Federal Union
Signing of the NCA brings in the guarantees to both sides for monitoring on ceasefire as well as the continuation of political dialogue. These are the predominant and paramount steps for the emergence of future federal union.
Every cloud has a silver lining on the bumpy road of our journey in quest of peace, amidst some challenges in front of us. The Ministry of the State Counsellor Office has determined to step ahead towards the goal of Union Peace.
The door of peace is always open for the non-signatories EAOs, and that the NPRC and the PC is building trust through formal as well as informal meetings.
Following the successful convening of the Third Union Peace Conference – 21st Century Panglong, the Government and the EAOs have continued their meetings on multidimensional themes with positive approach.
Aspiration for ceasefire agreement in the whole country
Officials of the Joint Implementing Coordination Meeting (JICM) for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) at the 8th meeting reached an 8-point agreement including fixing a date for convening the fourth meeting of 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. The JICM meeting was held at National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) in Nay Pyi Taw on 8 January 2020.
The working groups of the government and Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement-Signatories, (10) ethnic armed organizations (NCA-S EAO) held (3) coordination meetings on implementing the decisions made at the 8th Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM).
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi stressed the need to have flexibility and broadmindedness in achieving genuine peace and emergence of a federal union.
Chairperson of both the National Reconciliation and Peace Center and the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee, made the remarks at a ceremony held in Nay Pyi Taw to mark the 4th anniversary of the signing of the government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).
The State Counsellor outlined three-step peace process to be pursued by the government in the future. The first step is to draft a common process on how to carry on the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference and to obtain framework agreements on the implementation of the NCA. These agreements will become the first part of the Pyidaungsu Accord to be signed in the forthcoming 4th Panglong Peace Conference.
The Second Peace Process
Second peace process is to include those who are required to take part in the NCA, and that the Government is to bring in the non signatories EAOs under the NCA umbrella.
The third peace process is to share the end result of peace among the people such as that of the allocation of aids assistances from international community as well as the domestic peace funds. Funds are to provide to the people and the nationalities in the conflict zones by building basic structure; the road communication; the agriculture; the education; and the healthcare.
The State Counsellor called on all stakeholders to strive for the success in achieving all these steps of future peace process.
Development of Rakhine State
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the UN Development Programme, signed on 6 June 2018 in Nay Pyi Taw a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
This MoU is to establish a framework for cooperation between the UN and the Government aimed at creating conducive conditions for the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees from other side and for helping to create improved and resilient livelihoods for all communities living in Rakhine State. The MOU was extended for another one year on 6 June 2019.
During the period, the UNHCR is allowed Rapid Need Assessment for (6) times; the Follow Up Visit (6) times; the Quick Impact Projects (45) cases; including the work authorizations and the travel permits.
The Rakhine State development projects are ongoing and under implementation.
Special Envoy of UNSG Ms. Christine Schraner Burgener is extended with all sort of cooperation and that she has visited Myanmar for (6) occasions.
IDP camps in Kyauktaw and Myaybon have been closed down and the people have been resettled. More IDP camps are to be closed down with “Camp Closure Strategy” drafted at the Union level.
Challenges in Rakhine State
Despite the positive efforts of the government for development in Rakhine State, there are bleak, cynical and pessimistic challenges keep coming in from many angles including the ICJ, ARSA, RSO and AA; resulting with negative impact. Upholding the social cohesion and harmony, the population in the IDP camps in Rakhine State have been facilitated with household registration lists; the e –IDs; the NVC through proper and systematic planning, including the services provided through the mobile teams.
Myanmar Response with regard to ICJ
Myanmar has responded defiantly to a ruling by the UN’s top court ordering measures to prevent the genocide of population in Rakhine State.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it presented a “distorted picture of the situation”.
The measures imposed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are binding and not subject to appeal.
However the ICJ has no way of enforcing them.
The case was lodged by the African Muslim majority nation of The Gambia. The ruling warned that genocidal actions could recur.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its own commission, the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), found that there had been no genocide in Rakhine state. However it did say that war crimes had occurred, and were being investigated and prosecuted by Myanmar’s national criminal justice system.
It also blamed condemnation by “human rights actors” for affecting Myanmar’s bilateral relations with some countries.
“This has hampered Myanmar’s ability to lay the foundation for sustainable development in Rakhine State,” it added in a statement.
Myanmar has responded that its military campaign was waged to tackle an extremist threat in Rakhine State.
During the defence statement at the court in The Hague, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi described the violence as an “internal armed conflict” triggered by militant attacks on government security posts.
Response of Myanmar over ICJ
The Ministry of the State Counsellor Office, in collaboration with relevant bodies, has responded defiantly against the ICJ on alleged violation of genocide.
On 11 November 2019, the Republic of the Gambia filed in the Registry of the Court an Application instituting proceedings against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar concerning alleged violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Myanmar signed the Convention on 30 December 1949.
On 2 September 1955, Myanmar Minister explained at the Parliament that Myanmar has never ever committed genocide on a group; race; religion; whatsoever. The Minister added that it will never be in the future. With that statement Myanmar abide by that commitment until today.
State Counsellor leads the team
The State Counsellor defended Myanmar against accusations of genocide at the international court of justice, calling the allegations an “incomplete and misleading factual picture of the situation”.
The Gambia lodged application with the ICJ against Myanmar, initiating the case. The ICJ held a public hearing on that request for three days, 10-12 December 2019 at The Hague, the Netherlands.
At the end of its second round of oral observations, Myanmar requested the Court:
“(1) to remove the case from its List;
(2) in the alternative, to reject the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by The Gambia.”
Rejecting on factual ground
In customary practice, the ICJ pronounced the “Provisional Measure” on 23 January 2020.
The court indicates the following provisional measures:
(1) The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the members of the group in its territory, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article II of this Convention;
(2) The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall, in relation to the members of the group in its territory, ensure that its military, as well as any irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it and any organizations and persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts described in point (1) above, or of conspiracy to commit genocide, of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, of attempt to commit genocide, or of complicity in genocide;
(3) The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;
(4) The Republic of the Union of Myanmar shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this Order within four months, as from the date of this Order, and thereafter every six months, until a final decision on the case is rendered by the Court.
The Court further reaffirms that the decision given in the present proceedings in no way prejudges the question of the jurisdiction of the Court to deal with the merits of the case or any questions relating to the admissibility of the Application or to the merits themselves.
It leaves unaffected the right of the Governments of The Gambia and Myanmar to submit arguments and evidence in respect of those questions.
Myanmar to resolve through international norm
On 26 November 2019, the government formed a Special Unit on International Criminal Justice in order to strengthen internal capacity and expertise and provide legal opinion to relevant ministries on issues related to international criminal law.
The special unit comprised experts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Union Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Judge Advocate General.
ICOE was formed on 30 July 2018. The body is tasked to investigate allegations of human rights violations and that Myanmar Government published the Executive Summary of ICOE’s Final Report on 20 January 2020, and submitted to the President.
It covers that the killing of villagers and the destruction of their homes were committed by some members of Myanmar security forces. However, it mentioned that the allegations regarding “genocidal intent” on the part of members of Myanmar Defence services have not been substantiated. Myanmar Government and the Myanmar Defence services must continue their respective investigation.
Experiences shared to the public through TV discussions
Myanmar Representatives that appeared at the ICJ in The Hague of Netherlands have shared their experiences to the public through the Myanmar TV.
The TV shows on ICJ laws; ICJ hearings; ICJ and Myanmar; and ICJ Provisional Measures were aired on Myanmar TV in December 2019 and January 2020.
On 21 February 2020, a (10) member leading committee chaired by the State Counsellor is formed to respond and handle the matters with regard to ICJ. The leading committee is to adopt policy guidelines and principles; to assign separate working team to submit reports in response to Provisional Measures (PM); and to coordinate with relevant bodies.
Moreover, the working committee in connection with the ICJ was formed on 27 February 2020 with (20) members led by Deputy Minister U Min Lwin.
The working committee is to implement the guidelines laid down by the leading committee; to submit response report on Provisional Measures (PM); to collect data and information to counter the allegations; to study over the evidences being collected; to study local, foreign reports and documents on Rakhine State.
In conclusion, the Ministry of the State Counsellor Office is implementing the tasks with regard to NRPC; the rule of law and the development of Rakhine State.
All in all, the Ministry is working in full speed in implementing the policy guidelines and the directives spelled out by the State Counsellor. Translated by UMT (Ahlon)