The Ministry of Information (MOI) of the Union Government of Myanmar released today remarks by Minister of Information, Mr Maung Maung Ohn, addressing the domestic security situation, preparations for multi-party elections and foreign media perception.
“As you are aware, Myanmar Government is committed to maintaining friendly relationships with the media. Through your efforts you can share the true situation about Myanmar to the world.
Myanmar recently marked 2 major milestones. 2 February 2022 marked the anniversary of the formation of the State Administration Council (SAC) on 2 February 2021 after the Proclamation a day earlier. The second is the celebration of Union Day on 12 February 2022.
The Proclamation of 1 February 2021 was made following the failure to settle the issue of voter fraud list related to the 2020 elections, and subsequent postponement of Parliament sessions. The SAC has clearly stated that it is a caretaker government to carry out duties during a state of emergency.
The SAC has clearly stated to the people and to the international community that the Five-Point Road Map and Nine Objectives of the country were set out once it took the power of the State. It is performing its duties as a national responsibility, focusing on 2 main areas: national welfare and food security.
The SAC’s interim role will end after a new government is formed following multi-party democratic elections which will be held by August 2023 under Article 429 of the 2008 Constitution. Indeed, these elections will serve as the foundation of Myanmar’s democratic and political system.
Myanmar is a country with more than 130 ethnic groups among our population of 54 million people. Without such a firm foundation of proportional representation Myanmar will never achieve unity. That is the spirit of Union Day which we just celebrated on 12 February. Hence, this date is sacred to our nationhood.
Those who seek to divide Myanmar had tried to convene Parliament without addressing the fraud issue of the November 2020 elections. When the SAC was formed, they sought to discredit it. They have chosen a path of civil disobedience which has caused death, destruction and disruption of social and economic activity. Calling themselves the People’s Defensive Force they have chosen terrorism and sought foreign support. And some foreign elements seem to have supported them and such acts of terrorism.
I want to address 3 issues at this media briefing.
The first is to update on security matters from the viewpoint of the Government.
The second is the media bias and the perception of Myanmar by the international community.
The third relates to Proportional Representation and Preparations by The Union Election Commission for the coming elections.
The Government of the day has a duty to protect its citizens. Its security forces must prevent death, injury, destruction of property and disruption of social and economic activity. Its duty is to ensure peace and security.
Since the Proclamation the security forces have had to deal with clear acts of terrorism. Indeed, on 7 September 2021 the so-called National Unity Government (NUG) said it had launched a ‘defensive war’ and called for ‘revolt’ against the Government in ‘every corner of the country’.
Government officers have suffered attacks which resulted in the deaths of 95 civil servants and many injured. 20 monks have been assassinated. 153 Government servants were injured. Acts of terrorism have led to the destruction of large number of public and government buildings. These include 525 roads and bridges, 27 hospitals and clinics, 504 schools and educational buildings were destroyed across the nation from 1 February 2021 to 20 January 2022.
All told, the Government recorded 9,437 terrorist attacks in the past year and seized 5,606 assorted arms, 161,556 rounds of ammunition, 1,890 grenades and 11,424 homemade mines and bombs.
The security forces have arrested 4,338 terrorists. Nonetheless, the SAC has, on humanitarian grounds, pardoned and released 48,718 persons who had been prosecuted for participating in protests due to the incitement of the so-called Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluittaw (CRPH) and the so-called National Unity Government (NUG). Those released include 23,369 inmates released on Union Day on 12 February 2022.
In preventing such violence, the security forces have had to carry out the duty. Please see for yourself the return to normalcy in all major towns and cities in the country. Yes, there are still terrorism incidents in some parts of the country but in general, the security forces have helped to achieve national stability that we see today.
Myanmar is friendly to the media. We have accredited many journalists from international media organisations. What we find troubling is the clear and persistent bias of certain foreign media towards terrorist groups. But these media are doing so without fully ascertaining the facts. The terrorists appear to have swayed sections of the foreign media who report without checking and repeat misinformation as truth.
Two specific incidents come to mind. The first is the incident at Thantlang, Chin State in October 2021 to early January 2022. The second is an incident at Phruso Township, Kayah State in December 2021.
In both instances, the so-called PDF and parties sympathetic to it initiated attacks with arms and committed arson against security forces. In the Kayah State incident, the terrorists hid among civilians, and fired a 107-mm rocket launcher before fleeing. I have to stress that these attacks were initiated by terrorists and not by the security forces who were then called to respond.
In the Chin State incident that occurred on 29 October 2021, some vehicles caught between the 2 sides involved in the fire fight were set ablaze. The security forces tried to engage the local firefighting brigade but its vehicles had already been damaged earlier by the terrorists and it could not extinguish the fire. The terrorists abducted, handcuffed and killed some members of the Border Guard Force and then fabricated a story that security forces were responsible.
Many of the stories were written by journalists from the Western media who were not even present in Myanmar at the time. Indeed, many of these writers are reporting from abroad. They rely on ‘informants’ or propaganda on social media. They carried pictures of the arson attacks and blame the incidents on security forces.
The Ministry of Information will do its best to communicate the role and actions of the Government. That we are meeting the media and taking questions shows you that we have nothing to hide. We hope that the international media adhere to the principles of good journalism when reporting on Myanmar.
Preparing for Elections
Myanmar has held multi-party democracy elections in 2010 and 2015 and will do so again by August 2023.
The SAC is committed to the concept of Federalism. By this we understand it as sharing authority with regions, states, ethnic groups and races in a spirit of unity and integration.
We need to achieve true Proportional Representation (PR) so that various political parties have a wider scale of representation. Even if different political parties have different interpretations and concepts of federalism, we must come together to select the political system through a democratic process.
That political system must recognise the wishes of the majority and the minority in achieving harmony. It must involve sharing of power to enable the regions and states to have the rights of self-administration under the Constitution. Power must be shared on a tripartite basis – the Union, the regions, and the states.
In line with these principles and objectives, the current Union Election Commission (UEC) held 4 meetings with Political Parties last year to implement the System of Proportional Representation that is voter-based and democratic. These meetings have been successful, and a Closed List Proportional Representation System will be used to ensure that the process is fair. To achieve this UEC is amending the relevant laws and rules, reorganizing sub-commissions and providing the necessary training.
Basic voter registration is being carried out in the Regions and States to complete the voter list. A pilot project to verify the ground census so as to ensure accuracy of the basic voter list is also being implemented by the relevant ministries. Hence, major preparations are underway to hold free and fair multi-party democratic general elections in accordance with the Constitution (2008).
We hope that the international community understands that Myanmar is committed to the democratic process. They should not be blinded by sections of the international media who are fixated on a certain narrative about the country.
Myanmar has friendly relations with many countries who understand our challenges and have extended help in the form of humanitarian assistance and regular dialogue without interfering in domestic affairs. They continue to invest in our country away from the glare of publicity.
But Myanmar also has countries that are not friendly to us. Some want to impose a set of values that are consistent with the negative perception of sections of the foreign media. Some of these actions verge on interference of our domestic affairs. We hope these countries can view Myanmar without the lens of a biased narrative and recognise our history and unique social-political fabric.
We are determined to purse the path to democracy to ensure unity and progress. Thank you.”