State Counselor’s Office Behind Govt’s Agenda: Minister

By The Irrawaddy 28 June 2016

RANGOON — The State Counselor’s Office has been behind some of the government’s most important initiatives—from prisoner releases to peace in Arakan State, according to an interview on Monday with Minister Kyaw Tint Swe.

The State Counselor position was created in early April to give National League for Democracy party leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is barred from the presidency, greater political influence. In mid-May, Kyaw Tint Swe was appointed the head of the State Counselor’s Office, a Union-level ministry with a staff of 200.

In an interview Monday with the state-run Myanmar News Agency, Kyaw Tint Swe revealed that his ministry is behind the release of political prisoners and student activists and the President’s Office reform. It also played a role in transforming the Myanmar Peace Center into the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, as well as the formation of the Implementation Committee for Peace, Stability and Development of Arakan State and the organizing of the 21st Century Panglong Conference, a peace summit with ethnic armed groups set for late August.

“These are the things we have done or are doing for the 100-day plan,” the minister said. “Apart from carrying out [this] plan, we have to implement what the State Counselor Law states as long term.”

The law says that the office must aim to achieve the following goals: the flourishing of a multi-party democratic system in Burma, the emergence of the market economy, the establishment of a federal Union and the peace and development of the country.

Kyaw Tint Swe said the ministry has helped release 453 political prisoners, political activists and student activists by dropping their ongoing cases in keeping with Suu Kyi’s policy of “no political prisoners under the democratic government.”

He also said that the ministry had helped grant a presidential pardon to another 83 political prisoners who had been sentenced.

On the ongoing ethnoreligious conflict in Arakan State, Suu Kyi led the Implementation Committee for Peace, Stability and Development of Arakan State.

“It doesn’t mean that other areas are not as important as Arakan State. But the situation out there could result in a state of emergency at any moment. That’s why we are giving [this state] special attention,” he explained.

“At the moment, we are prioritizing stability and issuing National Verification Cards there. Then it will be followed by a citizenship verification process according to the 1982 Citizenship Law. Next, [there will be] infrastructure development and promoting investment and job opportunities in the area,” he said.

With national reconciliation in mind, Suu Kyi transformed the Myanmar Peace Center into the National Reconciliation and Peace Center not only to promote internal peace, but to include everyone in the peace process, Kyaw Tint Swe said.

He explained that was the reason that the Panglong Conference Preparatory Sub-Committee 1 is reaching out to armed groups that did not sign last year’s nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), while also discussing the terms of the peace talks with NCA signatories.

“If the non-NCA signatories could be able to join the conference, the 21st Century Panglong Conference will be a huge step for the peace that we all have been longing for,” he said.