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December 16, 2019

Government holds press conference on peace making process, rule of law, anti-corruption drive

Director-General U Zaw Htay of the Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor holds a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw on 13 September 2019. Photo : mna
Director-General U Zaw Htay of the Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor holds a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw on 13 September 2019. Photo : MNA

The Ministry of Office of the State Counsellor held a press conference on peace making process of the government at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday afternoon.
Director-General U Zaw Htay said to media that the government discussed with Karen National Union at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) in Yangon on 7 September. The next discussion was made with 10 signatories, including KNU, in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. The discussion included the concerns of Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO) about the suspension of peace talks.
There are four processes in way forward for peace process. The peace commission explained it ahead of Peace Process Steering Team (PPST) meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The PPST meeting made decisions to meet with the government. The meeting formed the groups for discussions. The follow-up meetings could make some recommendations. The attitude of EAO was quite optimistic on these recommendations. They presented their expectations in details. Preparations were thoroughly made for this achievement.
The EAO has formed 18 groups until 13 September. Among them, some 10 groups have signed in NCA, but the remaining 7 northern groups are not yet in it. The KNPP is one of the seven group. The mechanism of NCA include JICM, JMC and UPDJC. The JMM is concerned with ceasefire, while UPDJC with political dialogue. The all matters merge in Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong. The JMC mechanism is related with trust building, and this process will be handled by the UPDJC.
Management in interim period is very important for building trust. It will have to be reviewed to go ahead to the Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong. In this stage, discussions are under way with NCA signatories to make political agreements in shaping a federal union.
Views were also exchanged how to make bilateral agreements of the leaders. Myanmar will hold the General Election in 2020. After the elections, the change of government may occur, and the possible ways in peace making process beyond the elections must be considered under the plan of ‘Before & Beyond 2020’. Under this title, the discussions will focus on how to conclude peace talks and stronger ceasefire agreement ahead of the 2020 General Election and till the election period. The agreements will be recorded in Union Accord. After signing them in the agreement, it will be presented to the Union Hluttaw. After the Hluttaw approved it, the peace making process with the 10 signatories will follow this way.
Meanwhile, a joint announcement with KNPP has been issued in Loikaw, Kayah State. Pledges in bilateral ceasefire agreement have been compiled. And that the ongoing discussion with KNPP focuses on the timing for signing agreement in NCA. Then, KNPP will be joined NCA and its mechanism JICM, JMC and UPDJC.
Out of 7 northern armed groups, ceasefire agreements have been reached with UWSA, MNDAA and SSPP. There are no major armed conflicts with them. Especially, there is neither fights nor conflicts in Wa and Mongla regions. Although bilateral ceasefire agreements were made with KIA and KIO, the armed clashes have occurred again. However, there is now ceasefire agreement with AA, TNLA and MNDAA. Discussions are under way with these groups and KIA. During the earlier period of this administration, efforts were made to issue a statement with these three groups. More discussions are being made with a total of four groups, including KIA, through the three steps. These steps will lead to make peace with the four groups. Bilateral ceasefire agreement will be made with each group before going ahead to NCA. Efforts will be made to sign MoU with the remaining groups for NCA.
Chairman of Mongla Region has said on the occasion of Mongla’s 30th peace anniversary that their group is ready to sign NCA. The SSPP is also ready for this step. Discussions are under way with these 7 northern armed groups to join NCA.
A common goal must be set up among these stakeholders for the periods of before and after 2020. The government is now trying to operate NCA process, informal process and parallel process well. Some remaining challenges for the government include political dialogue framework with JMC and UPDJC, common definition and understanding in NCA. These problems will also be solved. Regarding non-signatories, discussions are taking place as KIA+3. A meeting will be held on 17 September before the deadline of the unilateral ceasefire agreement of Tatmadaw on 21 September. The Tatmadaw is believed to extend this period depending on the results of this meeting. It is very interesting about possibilities of signing with the seven armed group in NCA.
During the bilateral meeting with KNPP in August, it proposed the needs which the government should be supplied.
The most update at this stage is discussion with KIA+3 in three stages. Discussions will be made with the whole group and individually. The steps will continue until signing NCA. The current expectation of the government is to persuade the seven armed groups to sign NCA.
There are the four parallel working process proposed by the government at the informal meeting of UPDJC secretaries.
The first one is implementation of NCA. In this state, agreements have been reached on Chapter 3: Ceasefire Related Matters, Chapter 4: Maintaining and Strengthening Ceasefire, and Chapter 6: Future Task. Some agreements have been made on security affairs. There are 36 meeting agreements to be referred for NCA. Among them, it was agreed to discuss 8 decisions again very thoroughly. The definitions in NCA should be common. Some EAO leaders have prepared the books about the definitions in NCA, the government has also made definitions based on video record and audio files recorded during the meetings. The Tatmadaw has also created such publication. However, the terms and definitions are not similar each other due to different understanding. A working group should be formed to address this problem. For example, 3+3 represents individual from the government, the Hluttaw and the Tatmadw, while the three representatives from NCA signatories will take part in it. It was proposed by the government. Discussion for implementation of NCA will be made.
The second parallel working process is to follow the roadmap of Union Peace Conference to be able to set up federal principles in the Union Peace Conference.
The third parallel work process was what to achieve prior to 2020. What to do in stages between the government, Tatmadaw and EAOs beyond 2020 will be discussed. Finally it’ll be submitted to UPC. In addition to this three, discussion on interim period management may take some time. Especially ceasefire region announcement is required. NCA Section 25 defines as within the ceasefire region of the respective organization and this would be difficult to define by JMC. At this situation, the deployment of forces is to be specifically designated so discussion on this will be difficult. Much time would be needed and include education, health, regional development and road transport matters too. The government doesn’t want the people to wait for the fruit of peace until the discussions and agreements were completed. So discussion will be held and at the same time the government proposes to conduct bilateral education, health and development for ethnic nationals in the region where EAOs had signed the NCA so that the ethnic nationals in that region could start enjoying the benefits of peace.
After this, development works that support peace will be conducted on the ground. The vision of the State/Region will be achieved by working together. The government had proposed for state/region government, Hluttaw, Hluttaw representatives, EAOs, CSOs and business person to work together. For example, what are the strengths in Mon State? The weaknesses, business opportunities, protecting the environment and nature will be discussed.
In which part of the state/region will have industrial zone. How to protect and maintain the environment and cultural traditions? These will be included. What sort of future we want for Mon State within the next ten years? The proposal was cooperate toward the aims of each state/region. This was proposed to the EAOs. Except for some groups, almost all accepted the government’s proposal.
This was started. Talks were held with the government toward establishing agriculture zones and to construct houses for people to live. Some were discussing on how to produce electricity. Physical study on resources to produce electricity will be conducted as a priority work.
The main point was these three. These were also what the EAOs leaders were concerned. There was an announcement after the third session of the Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong. Peace conferences will be held twice in 2019 and once in 2020. Efforts will be made toward establishing Federal Principles and Democracy Principles in this three conferences. Does this mean there’s no more political dialogues in post 2020?
Another point was Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief’s announcement at the third anniversary of NCA held at Nay Pyi Taw Shwe San Ein Hotel. Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief said efforts will be made to completing the peace process in 2020. So there were worries that Tatmadaw will no longer have peace process in post 2020. This was the statement of the desire of the Tatmadaw. This was made with the Tatmadaw’s desire to have ceasefire all over the country and reach the stage of political discussion. This was explained. Discussions were conducted on how to implement this in stages. Based on government’s proposal discussions were held at PPST Chiang Mai. On 7th and 10th KNU and 10 groups that had signed the NCA held a discussion where all was agreed to in principal.
There the government proposed three parts of Union Accord. Discussion with EAOs was to hold a Peace Conference once before 2020. There’ll be Parallel Process. Frame of Union agreement was proposed to the EAOs and there were three parts in it.
One part can be said as Political Agreement or Framework Agreement. It is the establishing of political agreement by the Government, Hluttaw, Tatmadaw, EAOs and political parties participating in the peace process. This is not a Federal Principal. It is Federal Scope. We’ll discuss what the federal union we were aiming for. The separation between the Union and state/region will be one. What is the Union Constitution and what are the state/region Constitutions. How to resolve disagreements? Basic framework agreement on such matters will have to be obtained.
If an agreement on ceasefire was reached, it’ll be included in the agreement. Two sides will continue to negotiate and discuss. This is a Framework Agreement on the future union. These will be included as 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. Another point is Federal Principle. Union Peace Conference-21st Century Panglong second and third session reaches agreements on 51 points in five sectors of political, economy, social, security, land and natural environment. Discussions will be on what more to include, to keep as it is and proceed toward Federal Principal.
Another matter is how to proceed stage by stage with peace work process in the post 2020 period. Agreement was to be obtained on this. If an agreement was reached, implementation will be conducted in stages. Stage wise works will be designated. Implementation works will be designated. This whole thing is the Union Accord that will be signed in the forthcoming Union Peace Conference. The aim was to conclude the political discussions conducted during the NLD government term and pass it on to the next government. Emphasis must be placed toward discussing the inclusion of the thoughts and ideas of groups that hadn’t signed the NCA.
Only then will these groups that hadn’t sign the NCA will have ownership of this work process. We were thinking and working toward that aim. And it was proposed to conduct in this way. EAOs were in principal agreement of the remaining timeline. But they would need to submit it to PPST. After submitting to PPST, they’ll meet with us and uncover the next step. This explains our peace process said U Zaw Htay.
Next, question raised by the media on peace processes, action taken against corruption, Victoria case and rumors circulating about banks were answered by U Zaw Htay.
The Irrawaddy questioned whether there was any connection between resignation of Union Minister U Khin Maung Cho and BPI factory manager Dr Aung Zaw corruption enquiry. U Zaw Htay said there was no connection. U Khin Maung Cho was a complaint made to the President while Dr Aung Zaw was a complaint made to Anti-Corruption Commission. There was no relation in the two and departments taking action against the two were also not the same. The two were not related or connected.
Factory personnel supporting BPI factory manager was due to their respect toward the factory manager. There was no restriction imposed on the factory personnel. But Ministry of Industry Permanent Secretary explained to the personnel about staff and personnel rules and regulations. No pressure was applied.
According to investigation conducted by Anti-Corruption Commission, there was no violation under the corruption law but there were some violation of administrative rules. Recommendation was made to take action according to negligence in following administrative rules. Managing Director U Ko Ko Aung was also removed from his position on 12 September.
Dr Aung Zaw case is now at the court and court will decide on it so the Government has no comment on this.
He also refuted the accusations that the government turned a blind eye to some staff who are also connected with the case.
The government has given priority to the Rule of Law and this is its policy, said U Zaw Htay, adding that, therefore, the government has formed the Anti-Corruption Commission and given mandate to the commission.
The accusations that actions are taken only against the government employees, while the MPs are pardoned are concerned with the Anti-Corruption Commission. These questions should go to the commission, he said.
He also responded the questions raised by the New Watch Journal regarding the case of Dr Khaing Soe Hla and U Min Lwin Soe of the Nay Pyi Taw Development Affairs Committee.
He said an accused is considered as a suspect until the court convicts him/her for his or her offence because the courts have to protect the rights of suspects and accused.
When a case is brought to the court, the police or the ACC have to submit evidences and witnesses to the court. According to the court procedures, there are also lawyers on both sides for becoming a fair trial. After hearing both sides, a judge makes a decision based on his/her rationalization, he said. Regarding the aforementioned case, the judge made the decision based on his rationalization, he added.
He continued to say that U Min Lwin Soe was released unconditionally in connection with the case he was charged. He has been reinstated as the head of the department at the Nay Pyi Taw Development Affairs Department. He spent two years in custody and experienced grievances. According to the law, he had got the fully salary for the first year. Now, he can demand the salary for the second year he spent in custody as he was released unconditionally.
For his grievances, he has rights under the Anti-Corruption Law to file lawsuit against those who lodged complaints against the ACC.
In response to the questions on ethnic armed organizations and the government’s proposed timeline and development plans, U Zaw Htay denied to officially answer the first question saying that the two sides would negotiate the timeline again after the EAOs discussed the timeline.
For the second question, he clarified the Paragraph-25 of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement saying that development projects would be carried out in ceasefire areas after areas for ceasefire and for troops of both sides are designated, he said.
But, it will take a long time to start the development projects only when the above requirements are fulfilled in accordance with the NCA. Therefore, we, the government side, proposed to start the development projects first and most of EAOs agreed our proposal, said U Zaw Htay.
Regarding a high-profile minor sexual assault case in Nay Pyi Taw, he said the government is keeping on watch the case under the three points of views : the Rule of Law, exposing criminals, and responsibility and accountability in court proceedings.
Regarding the recent rumour about banking sector, the director-general said some Union ministers of the government, the Central Bank of Myanmar and chairmen of the private banks held a meeting on 6th September. At the meeting, they discussed assistance to be rendered by the government and the CBM to help the private banks to overcome their current challenges.
He also urged the people not to believe the rumours because the government and the Central Bank of Myanmar are monitoring the cash flow of banks.
Regarding the repatriation of the displaced persons in Rakhine State, Director-General U Zaw Htay said the government has released announcement on the repatriation programme of the displaced persons. Union Minister Dr Win Myat Aye and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made press conferences.

The programmes should be carried out in line with bilateral agreements between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The agreements include repatriation in their own volition. The interference of NGO was founded in it, not to return home. Another threat is from ARSA. Some misappropriate actions were also found that officials did intensive surveys on the willingness of the displaced persons for returning home.
Regarding the removal of awards from the City of London, U ZawHtay said that it was informed in the letter based on their view. However, Myanmar is moving along on the logical path. The truth cannot be hidden forever. Tension was very high in the past two years.
However, the representatives from ASEAN and the ambassadors of neighbouring countries could interview Hindu people who these displaced persons were treated. Some Muslim people have returned home in their own volition. Myanmar government arranged for meeting with them. In the past, Myanmar government hardly confronted the huge media wave. However, news about the camps in Bangladesh have often appeared. The interference of NGO there was seen. Reports have said there were some threats in these camps. The real situations cannot be hidden. The world has gradually realized. Some other organizations have revoked their awards due to some reasons and pressures. These awards were not requested to get. So the withdrawal was just related with them. It is more important to consider about the welfare of this country and the people.
Regarding the rule of law in Rakhine State, it was an inhumane killing of decapitation in Rakhine state, not an anarchism. It is just an terrorist act, and an inhumane act. ARSA and AA appeared in Rakhine State. Civilians were killed by bomb and mine attacks there. Mine explosions have caused serious damages and losses. The armed conflicts have destroyed rule of law and stability. The participation of Hluttaw representatives is very important for the management of government in this issue. Stability and peace in Rakhine State could be done with the participation of Rakhine people and Rakhine Hluttaw representatives.
Much can be done with people’s participation. In any country rule of law was through the people’s participation. We are striving toward this. At the moment, there are fighting. We were discussing about AA. Priority was given toward reaching some sort of a ceasefire status. This will be followed with arriving at political dialogue on the NCA path. This can be resolved. For example, some Hluttaw representatives were criticizing the government. We want to say that Rakhine State is part of the Union. So we take this as a matter of the Union. We met frequently with Rakhine society. We explain repeatedly whenever we met. On their side they say there were more than 60,000 who were facing difficulties. This number is ethnic Rakhine nationals in IDP Camp. Mro and Kaman ethnic nationals were facing difficulties without being in IDP Camp. That was why we ask for assistance to be provided to IDP Camp as well as those who were not in IDP Camp. Not only ethnic Rakhine stay in Rakhine State. There are other ethnic nationals like Kaman and Mro. It is like a small union within the Union. Once there is a ceasefire, IDP matter can be handled. This will follow with returning to their places of origin. We were heading toward long term development and peace in Rakhine region. Many years ago we faced armed conflicts. But for many years we didn’t face it anymore. For example, much was experienced in Kachin, Shan and Kayin State. So their leaders were also striving toward not hurting or affecting the people. Rakhine also need to go this way. — MNA
(Translated by GNLM)

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