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Japan can help ... Myanmar, The Dai

Subject: Japan can help ... Myanmar, The Daily Yomiuri, Opinion

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Editorial / Opinion

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By Hiroshi Yamada
Yomiuri Research Institute

Only 6 percent of the people in the Asia - Pacific region are
living in countries with full democratic rights, compared with
10 percent of the people in Africa, according to a survey by
Freedom House, a private U.S. research institute.

The survey classified the nations into three categories in terms
of political rights and the extent of the freedom the people
enjoy -- free, partially free and non - free countries.

The United States has for years played the role of a crusader
for democratization in the region despite being condemned for
supposedly trying to force Western values on nations in the
area. But policies to again embrace the more parochial Monroe
Doctrine and to slash fiscal deficits are beginning to take
precedence in the Unites States. Its budgetary spending for
foreign aid, now averaging $15 billion a years, is to be cut by a
total of about $23 billion over the next seven years.

Meanwhile, Japan has been inactive and has held back from
asserting its influence. It criticizes U.S. ways as being too
hurried and seems to want to assume the role of the sun in
"The North Wind and the Sun" of Aesop's Fables. But the
Japanese sun too often hides behind a cloud.

For the past four years, Japanese official development
assistance centering on Asian countries has been the world's
largest. Japanese ODA is directed toward promoting
democratization and human rights as well as its policies
against weapons of mass destruction. But ODA policies for the
most part fail to achieve these objectives and heighten Japan's

Actually, the passive stance of Japan reflects the view in this
country that any Japanese attempt to help promote
democratization in other countries is beyond Japanese

Some people assert, "The Japanese people themselves do not
concern themselves with human rights."

Even participation by Japan in U.N. peacekeeping operations
at first looked beyond its capabilities.

But despite these arguments, there are two countries where
Japan can exert influence.

One is Cambodia.

Last December, former Cambodian Foreign Minister Norodom
Sirivudh was expelled from the country on charges of
attempting to assassinate Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
This helped strengthen the political base of strongman Hun
Sen, who allegedly follows a policy of oppressing the media
and opposition parties. The Freedom House survey
downgraded Cambodia from a partially free country to a non -
free country.

The United States, France and Australia strongly criticized
Hun Sen's actions. Hun Sen sharply reacted with the comment,
"Only Japan supports our country." There were rumors that
Hun Sen planned to expel all non-Japanese diplomats and non
- governmental organizations. Japan is the only country among
signatories of the 1991 Paris agreement, which is now praised
by Cambodia and is in position where it could support
Cambodia's painful efforts to achieve fuller democracy.

Former Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Yukio Imagawa
believes there has been improvement in Cambodia since the
1993 inauguration of a new Cambodia, and he stresses the
importance of Japan's responsibility.

The other country is Myanmar.

In Myammar, Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi was
freed from house arrest six months ago. This led to
expectations in the world that Myammar would head toward
democratization, but we see little progress.

Reports indicated limited Japanese influence was behind the
release of Suu Kyi. Japan wasted no time in resuming ODA to
Myammar as soon as she was freed, but froze the aid again at
the end of last year. The regime is now strongly asking Japan
to resume the aid, while promoting a freer economic policy.
For instance, it has designated 1996 as the year to develop

Chubu University Professor Minoru Kiryu who was an adviser
to the Myammar government, said "Japan should not resume
ODA as long as the Myammar government maintains its
current policies. But Japan should reconsider the resumption of
ODA if there were even the slightest sign of shifting power
from the military administration to a civilian government."

Kiryu's statement indicates that Japan can assert its influence
in Myammar by making skillful use of its ODA, and more
effectively than Japan's European counterparts.

Harvard University Professor Samuel Huntington also said in
his book that there was a possibility for Japan to make use of
its economic aid to help promote democratization.

 believe that Japan can play an intermediate role to imprint the
Western concept of human rights on traditional Asian values.

For instance, Japan can take the following measures:

* Extension of increased ODA to new areas, including judicial
services, education and the media to build a wider
infrastructure for human rights and democratization.

* Stricter application of Japan's ODA conditions.

* Formation of a regional organization for human rights and
holding more symposiums similar to the one held under the
joint sponsorship of the Foreign Ministry and the U.N.
University last year.

* Creation of more NGO groups and private institutions
concerned with democratization and human rights.  

(Hiroshi Yamada is a senior fellow of the Yomiuri Research