Friday, September 21, 2012

Aung Min says he is ‘proud’ of Suu Kyi’s award

Friday, 21 September 2012 12:14 Mizzima News

Aung Min, a close confidant of Burma’s President Thein Sein, says Burma will do more to end decades-old fighting in ethnic regions and it will help refugees return to home.

Aung Min traveled to Washington to attend the Congressional Gold Medal award ceremony for Burmese democracy leader Suu Kyi. He said he was "proud" that a Burmese citizen was awarded such a high honor.

He told the Voice of America Burmese Service that the Burmese government would make good on pledges to end ongoing skirmishes, especially in Kachin state.

“Yes,” he said. “The president already promised there would not be offensives apart from some defensive actions. I also tell you the army is strictly following the orders. There will be no open season offensive. I guarantee it.”

He told Radio Free Asia that Burma is “one step” away from striking a peace deal with ethnic Kachin rebels, who have been engaged in a running conflict with the government for the past year.

“For now, only the Kachin are left in the [peace] process. But I think even the Kachin issue—this problem will be solved in only one step further,” Aung Min, a minister in President Thein Sein's office, told RFA.

In the award ceremony, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged Aung Min as well as Than Swe, the new Burmese ambassador in Washington, for putting aside their differences with the opposition and honoring Aung San Suu Kyi’s achievement.

Aung Min said he was pleased to have been praised during the event by both Clinton and Aung San Suu Kyi for his role in helping with Burma’s national transition.

“I am glad I had the chance to attend this kind of ceremony and to perform my duties as a politician. I am very proud and satisfied,” he said, noting that his decision to attend the ceremony demonstrated how far the Burmese government  has come.

“We are mainly focusing now on ethnic issues and reconciliation, which we all need. In national reconciliation we aim to be all-inclusive,” he said.

Aung Min said the military has taken steps to try to resolve the Kachin conflict.

“Now the positions of the troops are overlapping,” he said, in the VOA report. “There have been some misunderstandings and some shootings. My objective is to make the troops withdraw from their positions so they are at least five kilometers apart as required in the primary cease-fire agreement. Only then can people sit to negotiate more.”

Aung Min told VOA that the government plans to establish industrial zones that will allow the refugees to earn a living by working in textile manufacturing or other industries.

Human Rights Watch estimates 140,000 refugees live in underfunded camps along the border with Thailand.

The Burmese government this week released 514 prisoners – including an estimated 90 political prisoners – as part of a general amnesty. But activists and rights groups have responded cautiously, saying hundreds of prisoners are still being held despite the government's promise to release them.

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