[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Japan aid mission to Burma (r)

"Japan to send aid mission to Myanmar"
by Hisane Masaki, Staff Writer
Japan Times, Friday, Aug. 25, 1995

Japan plans to send a government mission to Rangoon in October for the first
policy-dialogue on bilateral economic cooperation since the military took
power in Myanmar in a 1988 coup, Foreign Ministry sources said Thursday.

The sources said the mission will comprise senior officials form the Foreign
Ministry and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and possibly from
other government ministries and agencies involved in foreign economic aid.

The mission's objective will be to explain Japan's aid policy toward Myanmar
following the July 10 release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi after
nearly six years of house arrest, the sources said.

The mission will also hear requests from the Myanmarese military regime,
which styles itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council -- or SLORC,
concerning future Japanese economic aid for the impoverished Southeast Asian
country, they said.

They stressed, however, that the planned reopening of bilateral policy
dialogue on economic cooperation should not be taken as a signal of Japanese
willingness to resume full-scale economic aid to Myanmar immediately and

The mission's discussions with Myanmarese officials are likely to focus on
grant aid and technical cooperation, rather than on larger amounts of
official yen loans, the sources said.

"Despite Suu Kyi's freedom, the political situation in Myanmar remains
murky.  Japan must be careful not to send a wrong signal to the rest of the
world about its aid policy," one of the sources said.

Japan has virtually frozen official development assistance, including
official yen loans, grants and technical cooperation, for Myanmar since the
military leaders took power there in a 1988 coup.

In March, Japan provided =A51billion in grant aid to help Myanmar increase
agricultural production in areas populated by ethnic minorities. The amount
is the largest ODA extended since the 1988 military coup.

Japanese officials said at the time that resumption of such humanitarian aid
was in line with Tokyo's declared policy of encouraging progress in Myanmar
toward democratization and protection of human rights through dialogue,
instead of isolating it internationally.

As part of its policy of "constructive engagement" with Myanmar, Japan also
plans to provide between =A51.5 billion and =A52 billion in grant aid in=
for repair of a nurse-training school in Myanmar.

Now that Suu Kyi has been freed from house detention. Japan plans to
gradually unfreeze low-interest yen loans committed before the 1988 military
coup for six infrastructure development projects.

Among such yen loans are =A525 billion for repair and expansion of an
international airport in Rangoon, a project that SLORC wants completed as
soon as possible to ensure the success of its ambitious tourism promotion
campaign dubbed "1996 Visit Myanmar Year."

Under that campaign, SLORC hopes to attract 500,000 foreign visitors in 1996
as part of Myanmar's efforts to increase foreign investment, which is badly
needed to accelerate the long-reclusive country's economic growth through
free-market reforms.

But Japanese officials have said that yen loans for any new infrastructure
projects are conditional on further progress in Myanmar on human rights and
democracy because the United States, as well as Suu Kyi herself, is critical
of Japanese economic aid.