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Greed Rationalized: Keidanren
- Subject: Greed Rationalized: Keidanren
- From: carol@xxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 28 May 1996 20:55:00
If after reading the following article you are inspired to write a letter,
please address it to the man who is most responsible for this ugly
development. (Hard as it is, please try to keep your letter polite.) He is:
Mr. Kazuo Haruna, Chairman
Japan-Myanmar Economic Committee
c/o Marubeni Corporation
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-88
You may also want to send a copy of your letter to:
Mr. Haruo Nishimura, Managing Editor
Mainichi Daily News
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-51
Mainichi Daily News, Wednesday, May 29, 1996
BUSINESS GROUP UPGRADES TIES WITH BURMA
by Sumire Kunieda, Staff Writer
Japan's largest business federation set up an official channel with Burma
on Tuesday, just as the international outcry over Rangoon's round up of
opposition members hit a fevered pitch.
Keidanren (Federation of Economic Organizations) upgraded its informal
study group of private companies aiming to invest in Burma. In its new
status, the group's official name becomes the "Japan-Myanmar Economic
Committee." The military government renamed Myanmar when it took over in 1990.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's pro-democracy leader, has slammed Japan's
continued economic ties to the country's military rulers. She has urged
that Japan cut off its investments and financial aid to the country.
The Burmese government detained more than 200 members of Suu Kyi's National
League for Democracy (NLD) leading up to the anniversary of 1990 elections
in which the NLD scored an overwhelming victory.
Masashi Oshita, official of the Keidanren's Asian Affairs Department,
admitted that now is a "bad time" to upgrade the study group. But he added:
"There is no turning back."
The plan for upgrading the informal study group has been in the works for a
while, according to Oshita who said the private companies in the group had
looked forward to its upgrade to committee status.
The study group formed in February last year. During its meetings, high
level officials from both the Japanese and Burmese governments have been
invited to speak.
Minoru Kiryu, a professor of Chubu University, sees the group's upgrade as
a step in the right direction. According to Kiryu, Tokyo's decision in 1987
to end most of its official development assistance (ODA) to Burma has dealt
a serious blow to the country's economy.
He recommended a resumption of ODA under the condition that Rangoon takes
steps toward democracy. Still, he believes that Tokyo is not likely to
resume the assistance as long as the State Law and Order Restoration Council
(SLORC) stays in power.
"The Burmese public is fed up with the disputes between the NLD and
SLORC,"said Kiryu, who has spent 30 years studying and researching in Burma.
"The situation has changed since 1990" when the public overwhelmingly
favored the opposition group.
Kiryu noted that many Asian countries, especially ones which were
colonized, had to endure military regimes before seeing their economies take
On the other hand, Roger Buckley, a professor at the International
Christian University in Tokyo, called the timing of Keidanren's decision
"incredibly insensible" and "self-serving" and said the upgrade benefits
both Japanese industry and the junta.
"The (Japanese) government should try to discourage investment by
corporations, tourism and minimize high-level discussion," said Buckley, who
teaches the history of international relations.
The economic committee's formation comes as Japanese private investment is
flowing into Burma at a growing pace.
According to a survey that Keidanren conducted last December, 42 of 102
companies surveyed answered that they traded with or invested in Burma.
Nineteen companies answered that they are prepared to do so. Fully 34 said
they are thinking about doing business with Burma sometime in the future.
Only seven of the companies surveyed expressed no such interest.
Japanese companies are not alone in their interest in Burma. Although
Washington takes a tough line with the junta, U.S. private companies' annual
investment in Burma is more than double that of their Japanese counterparts.
Britain and France which had a relatively tiny amount of investment in
1993-94, invested 643 and 465 million dollars respectively during the first
nine months of 1995.