Ministries clarify undertakings in first 100 days

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Nay Pyi Taw, 26

A press conference took place in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday in connection with the government’s undertakings in its 100-day plan.

Deputy Director General U Zaw Htay of the Ministry of the State Counsellor’s Office responded to queries relating to the appointment of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as head of an advisory commission for the human rights situation in Rakhine State.

The establishment of the commission with foreign experts has drawn criticism from the media, prompting some political parties to issue statements expressing
concern over national security.

According to U Zaw Htay, the said commission is one step away from becoming official. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of the State Counsellor’s Office and the Kofi Annan Foundation will make the advisory commission official, with the official saying that the MOU is now in the hands of the Office of the Attorney General.

The deputy director general stressed the need to consider what kind of person the former UN chief was. Kofi Annan initiated the Millennium Development Goal as UN Secretary General and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. He headed the UN for two consecutive terms. U Zaw Htay said the Nobel Peace laureate had nothing to do with the Syrian issue and the destruction of religious structures in Afghanistan, which he described as the consequences of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Advisory Commission will be formed with nine members- six local experts and three foreign experts. The members of the commission are selected according to the four criteria, which include impartiality, respectability, know-how and reputation.

In connection with the inclusion of foreign experts in the commission, U Zaw Htay stressed the depth, sensitivity and broadness of the Rakhine issue, adding that this required a review of what and how the international community would assess the matter. The commission will have a mandate to submit their findings and suggestions to the government through the State Counsellor. The government formed a Committee for Peace, Stability and Development in Rakhine State chaired by the State Counsellor herself, with the official saying that the developmental undertakings in the region cannot avoid the involvement of international organisations, including the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The Advisory Commission will have the responsibility to guarantee the safety and basic human rights of the Rakhine people, provide humanitarian aid and development services, take preventive measures against conflict,  initiate reconciliation, undertake humanitarian infrastructure projects, and review the backgrounds of overseas refugees and their countries of origin.

Regarding the commission’s possible push for the government to accept the sometimes called ‘Bengali’ community against the Citizenship Law of 1982, U Zaw Htay said the government is to work in line with the State Constitution and existing laws.

The government has not the divine right to grant citizenship to the community in question with no regard for the Citizenship Law of 1982, he said, adding that the advisory commission has no mandate to force the government to undertake all of its suggestions.

According to him, the Rakhine State Conflict Investigation Commission under the previous government came up with 59 suggestions in significant areas, including economy, health, education and peaceful coexistence between the two communities.

In respect to the Myitsone dam, Deputy Director General U Zaw Htay said the commission was still engaged in the compilation of a report on the hydropower project. He hinted that some terms of the contract considered fit for public observation would be released on completion of the report.

During a press conference, Union Minister for Health and Sports Dr Myint Htway said that 72 per cent of 31 projects set to be completed under the ministry’s 100 day plan were completed, adding that 37 of 68 projects set by the ministry will be carried out after the plan.

The ministry sought the government’s approval on the proposed appointment of 1,768 fresher doctors and 84 dentists, provided primary healthcare to rural people through the opening of community clinics and launched a school health program in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, said the Union minister.

He added that works are underway to review disaster mitigation and response measures, increase immunisation coverage and provide new vaccines to children under five.

Moreover, the ministry drafted a five-year plan to improve health information systems, organised occupational health and worksite safety courses, carried out workplace inspections, preventive measures against hospital infection and curriculum revision and development for undergraduate and postgraduate students of medical schools and established an ambulance system for emergency care on Yangon-Nay Pyi Taw-Mandalay expressway and a reception service at 100-bedded hospitals and above.

Next, Deputy Director-General U Zaw Htay of the State Counsellor’s Office said that 83 political prisoners were granted amnesty and courts across the country dropped charges against those facing trails over cases in connection with politics.

Regarding internal peace, the Myanmar Peace Centre was transformed into the National Reconciliation and Peace Center and a Central Committee on Implementation of Peace and Stability and Development in Rakhine State was formed.

In accordance with the guidance given by the State Counsellor, arrangements are being made to draft a law to curb hate speech by the Ministry of Religious and Cultural Affairs and a political dialogue framework was reviewed to enable NCA non-signatory groups to join the country’s peace process.

Moreover, a commission to review hydropower projects on Ayeyawady River was formed, added the deputy director-general.

He added that the State Counsellor held talks with donor community to create a donor coordination mechanism last week and works are underway to establish joint mechanism involving donors, stakeholders and the government.

Then, Director-General U Tint Thwin of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism elaborated on the country’s tourism sector including human resources development programmes, issuance of hotel and tour guide licenses, relaxation of restriction on license fee and e-license application.

The ministry recently launched a Facebook page to heighten public awareness of disasters in the aftermath of earthquake in Bagan, he added.

Next, Deputy Director-General U L Too Main Gaung of the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs said that the ministry is committed to ensuring protection of rights of ethnic people. Formation of the new ministry was about 90 per cent complete and is slated for completion on 16 September, said the deputy director-general, adding that the minister’s office and head offices of the ministry’s two departments are expected to be completed this fiscal year while region/state offices of the two departments next fiscal year and the 2016-2017 budget was approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.

A press conference took place in Nay Pyi Taw on Friday in connection with the government’s commitment to its 100-day plan. Health Union Minister Dr Myint Htwe and officials responded to queries regarding the 80 fatalities and the virus control plan in the Naga self-administered area earlier this month.

Following a report of 13 deaths in three villages in Nanyun township on 3 August, the ministry opened a medical centre in Lahal where 15 patients were found presenting with measles symptoms and nine other patients with measles-like symptoms.

The health authorities had the blood samples of 10 patients from Htankhawlamar village tested at the National Health Laboratory in Yangon, with the results showing that seven of them had come down with measles.

Treatment was given to 148 patients under 18 years of age and 35 others over 18 years of age in Nanyun.

According to health officials, 15,054 children were immunized against measles during the house to-house visits conducted by 18 vaccination teams under the supervision of 15 infectious disease specialists to screen patients suspected of the infectious virus. Their efforts attracted 1,596 patients to the healthcare centres.

Underdevelopment and food scarcity are a major cause of nutritional deprivation, which makes villagers, especially children, less resistant to the disease, health workers said, adding that they went on medical tours of the difficult-to-reach locations.

Health authorities blamed dialect barriers, difficult access and high motorcycle rents for the epidemic of measles in the region, stressing that health workers had to build access routes to the villages. According to them, there has been no more outbreaks in the affected villages. The immunisation programme has covered over 85% of the region, with plans under way to continue the administration of 10 vaccines at the start of the cold season. In connection with queries regarding the cost-effective health plans, the officials of the ministry responded that the closures of pharmaceutical shops in hospitals presented problems. Coordination is going on to reopen the shops, where medical supplies will be sold at a 10% profit.

In response to the question of the abortion issue, the authorities said abortion is illegal in the country, but permissible for women with life-threatening cases.

There are 1,132 hospitals under the Health Department, which is planning to employ nearly 2,000 medical doctors. Health authorities admitted the some of the hospitals were overloaded with patients and as a result the health staff were overtaxed.

According to a health official, women turn to abortion when they are at their wit’s end with their unwanted pregnancies, which the official said was largely due to lack of knowledge of when to take contraceptive pills.

The officials also spoke of the ministry’s measures against health risks posed by roadside food stalls, stressing its plans to conduct awareness campaigns for public health under the supervision of the Food and Drug Administration.

Regarding the doctors who graduated abroad, the health officials said they need to take an examination to win a medical practitioner licence from the Myanmar Medical Council so as to practice medicine in the country. Reconsideration is under way for cases of Myanmar doctors trained overseas who wish to practise medicine in the country, officials added.

In response to the question of injections, the officials said medical staff certified by the Myanmar Medical Council can legally give various injections. The certified medical staff include assistant health officers, nurses and midwives.

Regarding the budget allotments, the ministry uses K850 billion on health sector and K19 billion on sports. Director General U Tint Thwin of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism responded to the queries of the ministry’s arrangements for the development of ecotourism, saying that the ministry would disseminate the information of the country’s landscapes and natural scenic spots across the various broadcasting channels. He also spoke of participation in travel shows in other countries to promote the country’s tourism industry.

He pointed out the need for training programmes to ensure quality services in terms of accommodation, hospitality, food and itinerary, calling for cooperation among the departments concerned. In response to a query about the installation of a lift in the ministry’s office, the director general said the life was installed at an estimated cost of US$30,000 donated by the Myanmar Tourism Federation. The facility would be listed as the state-owned property or ministry-owned property.

asked about the continued operation of the Yoe Yoe lay hotel at the Kyaik Htee Yoe pagoda, U tint thwin said the operating licence of the hotel had been revoked for its unauthorised extensions. The official pledged to push the hotel to obey the order.

Regarding the possible impact the earthquake might have on tourist arrivals in Bagan, the official responded that the disaster would not have a dramatic effect on the number of tourists visiting the country’s cultural site.

The Asian Development Bank has planned an offer of a US$45m grant in aid to the development of the tourism industry after 2018, he added. in connection with the official teaching of ethnic dialects to children in ethnic areas, U  L Tu Mein Gaung of the ministry of ethnic affairs responded that his ministry was still young and was having some difficulties with budget and staff issues.

He spoke of challenges in the use of ethnic dialects, stressing the need for ethnic children to learn the Myanmar language to be able to mix with the other national races in the union as Myanmar is the most common language used in the country.

A clause in the constitution encourages the use, development and promotion of the dialect, literature, arts and culture of the ethnic groups.