Office of the President Director-General U Zaw Htay gave a press conference at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw on 2 August in the afternoon.
Malaysia Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Director-General U Zaw Htay first spoke of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s media statement during a trip to Turkey. The Director-General said the statement was against ASEAN’s cardinal principle of non-interference in the internal affairs and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of ASEAN member states. It was also seen as a deviation from the principles set out in the ASEAN Charter, said the Director-General.
The Myanmar government and ASEAN have been cooperating in many ways on the Rakhine State affairs and the statement was seen as unsupportive of this cooperation and even affects and reduces the cooperation. It also affected the cooperation between Myanmar and Bangladesh governments on displaced persons.
It also affected ASEAN cooperation and unity. Myanmar categorically rejects such statements and Permanent Secretary U Myint Thu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had received the Malaysia Ambassador at the ministry a few days ago and objected to the statement of the Malaysian PM, said the Director-General.
Launching of Myanmar satellite
The Director-General next explained about launching of a Myanmar satellite. As a first step Myanmar leased Myanmar Sat 1 and the second step was a joint-ownership system. To implement the second step a satellite was to be launched on 7 August 2019. Total cost for this was US$ 155.7 million of which 30 percent was paid in two installments during the 2018 six-month budget. In fiscal year 2018-2019 50 percent of the amount was paid in four installments. The final 20 percent was to be paid in two installments in fiscal year 2019-2020. 432 MHz C-band and 432 K-u-ban totaling 864 MHz will be used. It will be used by education, health, security, forest, border and other departments. The amount paid was much less than the amount used by ministries when the satellite was leased. The life of the satellite was 15 years and as a third step, Myanmar will strive toward launching a fully-owned satellite, said the Director-General. This stage will be implemented when satellite channel usage increases, technological experience and the capacity to control the satellite on our own was achieved. An Earth Observation Micro-Satellite (EOS) that can provide the services the country needs will be launched and the construction of the satellite will be conducted in cooperation with Hokkaido University of Japan.
The cost for this will be more than US$ 8 million in the first two years. More than US$ 6 million is required for the next two years. The total was estimated to be more than US$ 15 million.
Myanmar Sat 2 will be launched on 7 August from Ariane Rocket Station at the North Atlantic shore, said the Director-General.
Questions of News Watch Journal reporter U Maung Maung Tun
On the first question by U Maung Maung Tun, the Director-General said the matter was related to religious matter that was very important and critical. Medias were requested to report this matter with special care as Myanmar was a Buddhist majority country and there must not be disintegration of the Sangha. It was also a financial matter. The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture will handle the matter taking into consideration the present situation and stability of the country and possible consequences.
Another question was a dinner the day before at the residence of Union Minister Thura Aung Ko. This was planned a long time ago and was only through coincidence that it was held on the specific day. It was a dinner not arranged immediately but was prepared well in advance. The reason for the dinner was awarding religious titles and donation of dry ration at Uppatasanti Pagoda. At an earlier dry ration donation event the State Counsellor asked Union Minister Thura U Aung Ko on how long the event would be. The Union Minister said it would be about 2 hours but actually took 3 hours. This was the first year. The same thing happened last year and the year before too. The State Counsellor penalized the Union Minister to arrange a private dinner for a total of 80 personnel from President Office, State Counsellor Office and security. This was a private dinner of the leaders and a family member of the Union Minister posted a picture of it on Facebook. The person should have considered whether the matter should be informed to the public or not. This is a matter of ethics. The dinner was for a very simple reason. It was not in any way an approval or showing support as accused or complaints made.
Question on Ministries
Regarding the questions by Irrawaddy reporter U Htat Naing Zaw on the Ministry of Electricity and Energy, Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Planning and Finance, Director-General U Zaw Htay said the matter of the Ministry of Electricity and Energy was handled by the Anti-Corruption Commission. The commission was handling this according to the Anti-Corruption Law and the administrative sector would not interfere or get involved in it. The commission would make an announcement accordingly and the government would not be involved in this, said the Director General.
On the matter of Union Minister for Industry U Khin Maung Cho the Director-General said this was handled by the government. The President received a complaint letter on the matter and after deliberations the President formed an investigation group consisting of three minister-level members. After detailed investigation, the group reported that the matter was following a wrong office procedure and the Union Minister resigned as a responsible person for the matter.
Union Minister U Soe Win concurrently serving two ministries was the outcome of consideration by the President and the State Counsellor. Only a little more than a year and half of the government’s term remained while the ministry of industry was also being discussed in the Hluttaw for closing down about 18 state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The Ministry of Planning and Finance was the ministry responsible for closing down SOEs, privatizing or forming joint ventures. That was why Union Minister U Soe Win was assigned to concurrently serve the two ministries as it was most appropriate, said the Director-General.
Transition to democracy
On the question relating to transition to democracy Director-General U Zaw Htay said Rakhine State issue affected the most on the transition to democracy. Since the incumbent government came into power it had formed a central committee to handle the matter and while handling it ARSA attacks occurred. It affected the stability and development of the Rakhine State. Later there were attacks by AA on 4 January. When works were conducted to achieve peace and stability in the region there were international criticisms and pressures.
There was a democracy transition research conducted by the World Bank on 30 countries that were transitioning to democracy during the period 1985 to 2009. The report found that on an average a 20 years period was required to reach a stage where democracy became strengthened. The fastest country took 12 years. Involvement of the military was found in some of these countries. For the military to return to where they were, it would take an average of 17 years. The fastest was 10 years. But those countries did not have internal conflicts as much as Myanmar had. Those countries did not have a Rakhine State issue that this country faced. Considering these two conditions the fastest country would take 12 years. Considering internal conflicts, the time required could be calculated.
Looking at good governance, it took an average of 36 years. The fastest country took 13 years. On anti-corruption it took an average of 27 years to reduce corruption significantly. The fastest was 16 years. Rule of law was another matter. These countries took an average of 41 years for this. The fastest was 17 years.
There was another assessment conducted in 2010. The assessment was on 115 incidences of transition to democracy from 1995 to 2007 covering 86 countries. Of these 86 countries only 15 reached the democratic norms set by the west. There were 27 incidences of back-tracking. There were 27 incidences where democracy was not achieved. Without back-tracking some did not achieve a firm stage of democracy for 30 to 40 years. This meant that these countries were stuck in the transition stage. Region wise none of the Latin American countries reached the democracy norm set by the west. There were only a few in Europe.
Myanmar started its transition beginning from the 2010 elections. The current civilian government came into power after the 2015 elections. At that time the transition faced many challenges. When other’s transitions were observed, it could be seen that they did not have the huge internal conflicts that we had. They also did not have as much armed factions as we had. The biggest was Rakhine State matter and the countries in the assessment did not have such issues. Myanmar’s transition may be long but it would not reverse nor back-track, said the Director-General.
The Director-General also explained about the investigation conducted on the Yenangyoung alluvial land matter and a nine member Myanmar delegation trip to Bangladesh led by Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary U Myint Thu. Afterwards Director-General U Zaw Htay responded to questions raised by local and foreign media.—MNA (Translated by Zaw Min)