U Zaw Htay, Director-General of State Counseller’s Office, holds virtual press conference over current situations of Myanmar

Director-General U Zaw Htay of the State Counsellor’s Office, met with journalists through video conferencing to update the government’s handling on current situations and answer the questions of media workers on 1 May.
At the press, he said: “Rice ration could not be sent yesterday to Paletwa area due to the blockage of AA; some 830 rice bags have been transported in the first time and it is enough for only two weeks; in the second time the AA group attacked the trucks with the labels of World Food Programme.
The rice bags were carried with the security of Tatmadaw convoy and the front of rice trucks were attached with the vinyl of WFP while the AA group launched attacks intentionally, causing a very terrible situation.
Especially, the relief aid was given by the WFP at the request of government as the locals in Paletwa area have no more access to food; U Win Ko Aung, the driver of WFP living in Pakokku Township, was wounded on face from pieces of broken windscreen hit by the bullets of AA; the six-wheeled truck was also damaged at the fuel tank, wheels and body.
After repairing the cars, the convoy proceeded the other day afternoon, and made a night stay at Seint San Wa; it was a report on heavy rain on 1 May and about 2,000 bags of rice rations would be carried on waterway the following day.
Similarly, the AA recently ambushed a WHO convoy in Minbya Township. A driver waiting for a vessel to cross the river was wounded in the incident. The vehicles of WFP and WHO used in COVID-19 measures were attacked. These attacks were unacceptable. The AA group has been announced as a terrorist group, and they increased attacks to UN agencies, in addition to civilians.
Then, journalists asked about the queries, including the activities of Work Committee to address the impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on the country’s economy, plans for grassroots beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, works of COVID-19 containment and response committee, coordination with ethnic armed groups in fighting against the disease, view on the assistance of China, resumption of public bus lines, registrations of unlicenced vehicles for civil service societies in COVID-19 measures, healthcare for the State Counsellor, legal actions against civil service employees who went outside Nay Pyi Taw without permission of their departments, reopening schools, getting international loans to contain COVID-19, disaster management plans in monsoon, situations on organizing the fourth edition meeting of 21st Panlong Conference, operating airlines after May 15, inspection to factories and workplaces to prevent COVID-19 transmission, and K200 billion prioritized loan plan to industries impacted by the outbreak.
In response to the questions, Director-General U Zaw Htay discussed the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan that includes distribution of necessary items for the common people, the release of K100 billion in the first phase loan and possible K200 billion in the second phase, the COVID-19 containment and emergency response committee at the Ministry of Home Affairs, coordination with EAOs at present, attacks of AA to WHO vehicles and investigation on this case in accordance with international guidelines.
He also talked about the accusation of Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, on the Tatmadaw without seriousness on the attacks of AA which has been categorized as a terrorist group, the attacks of AA on WHO relief aid convoy, attacking civilians to create battlefields, the expiry date of internet suspension in five townships in Rakhine Township on 1 May, resumption of internet connection in some areas with the minimum impacts of AA.
The Director-General confirmed no senior government officials under quarantine at present, the priority of security in conflict-torn areas of Rakhine and COVID-19 measure plans together with administrative action.
The government has not refused the return of Myanmar citizens. Instead, the returnees will need to spend 21-day quarantine and medical tests on suspected cases; preparations for handling a large number of cases in respective Regions/States, using modern technologies among medical doctors of Myanmar, technical and other relief assistance of China, focusing on the country and people instead of blaming the country with an epicentre of the pandemic, Myanmar’s five principles of peaceful coexistence with the neighbouring countries, different costs for medical treatments in individuals, review on overall suspensions by May 15 and no plan to issue the licence for unregistered vehicles at the moment. The government has invited volunteers across the country to form a National Volunteer Corps; conservation plan for Inle Lake, Myanmar citizens abroad receiving medical treatments in respective countries, arrangements for bringing back Myanmar citizens abroad, systematic healthcare services for the State Counsellor, reviewing school opening date by May 15, the announcement of Union Election Commission for holding General Election in November as scheduled, telephone discussions between the State Counsellor of Myanmar and the Indian Prime Minister in the programme for the return of Myanmar Buddhist monks from India and plan to seek international aid in the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan.
The plan to form the National Volunteer Corps is very pragmatic for the country amid the COVID-19, which is a long-term problem and different from other natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes in which rescue works are done among the devastations, followed by resettlement and rehabilitation plan. The volunteering works of COVID-19 need contributions of private donors and individuals for sustainability of the corps. Without regular supports, these works cannot be done in the long term.
The government has to plan to fulfil the needs of volunteers whose returns were denied by their communities as they came back from clinics and hospitals after their services; the characteristics of National Volunteer Corps are different from those of other CSOs; there are many well-wishers in dire needs of the public in certain ways individually or organizationally; although some persons have no experiences in volunteering services, they are fully enthusiastic about their works; they have no idea how to deal with state departments, and that they need capacity-building and it is one of the objectives to form the National Volunteer Corps which would also be reliable for other emergency works of natural disasters.
The EAOs meeting will be organized through video conferencing, while the government is making discussions with the relevant stakeholders of Hluttaw and the Tatmadaw; the Union Agreement will be discussed in three sections; there have been some agreements even before the COVID-19 problem; there have also been some recommendations for bilateral negotiation.
A concise workgroup will meet in early May for discussing option 1; they will adopt a common agreement before meeting with the government side; the option 2 meeting will also be held through video conferencing; peace-making process will be continued in line with scheduled time frames despite the outbreak of COVID-19; they have not presented their plan until now.
Regarding K200 billion loan plan, some businesses requested hundred millions of kyats, however, each firm was not allowed tens of millions of kyats, and that they have reported returning the loan; the relevant ministry made the 10 norms to apply for the loan, and the inspection works were carried by the officials from state agencies such as DICA, Industrial Supervising Body, UMFCCI, garment industry and industrial sector.
They scrutinized loan applicants at the headquarters of UMFCCI in Yangon based on the 10 norms and facts about the applying industries to make a recommendation on the loan; in the next step, a scrutinizing committee formed with the chairman of the association of Certified Public Accountant and vice president or CEC member of UMFCCI, and it is supported by the members of CPA before the next level of reviewing for giving the loan.
The Director-General concluded the press conference after replying other questions of media.— Myo Myint, Han Lin Naing and Myo Thu Hein (Translated by Aung Khin)

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