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July 16th meeting with Yoshikawa Sh
- Subject: July 16th meeting with Yoshikawa Sh
- From: brelief@xxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 03:45:00
Subject: July 16th meeting with Yoshikawa Shigeki of Mistubishi, on Burma et. al
Eight Burmese democracy activists (from Burma Youth Volunteer Association,
Burmese Relief Center-Japan, 8888 Group and DBSO, NLD -- Liberated Area
-Japan and the Kyoto-based Japan Environmental Exchange leafletted
Mitsubishi employees on their way to work early in the morning on the 16th.
Surprisingly, the flier, in clear Japanese, seemed to be of considerable
interest -- and the 1000 sheets were all handed out, no one refusing.
What follows is the report just in from Frank Chase of Japan Environmental
Exchange about the contents of the meeting with Yoshikawa Shigeki, Asst.
Gen. Mgr of the Southeast Asia, Myanmar and Oceania Development and
Coordination Department of Mitsubishi Corporation.
The activists represented BRC--J, JEE and BYVA.
- - - - - - - - - -
From: Frank Chase <chase@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Interview with Shigeki Yoshikawa, Mitsubishi Corp.
On October 16, four activists representing the Burma democracy movement
met with Shegeki Yoshikawa, Asst. Gen. Mgr of the Southeast Asia, Myanmar
and Oceania Development and Coordination Department. After introductions,
Mr. Yoshikawa presented Mitsuishi's involvement and approach to economic
developement in Burma.
l. Mitsubishi is not negotiating with the military junta (SLORC) and has
"no investments in Burma." The pipeline contract was made with Total and
finalized in Paris.
2. Mitsubishi sees itself as a "pioneer" in that it is collecting data from
a broad range of concerns in order to ensure the feasibility of long range
investments. A concern, mentioned several times, regarded the currency
issue (foreign reserves?). "We have been referred to as NATO, ' no action,
talk only.' "
3. Mitsubishi has historically been involved with the economic development
of Burma dating back before World War II. Dealings with Burma recently
under the SLORC however date back only three years. Mitusbishi is
proceeding very carefully and is a minor presence at the present time.
Activists: Does Mitsubishi perceive any linkage between 'economic
development' and 'political oppression' by SLORC?
Yoshikawa: Mitsubishi is only interested in economic development which is
good for the people of Myanmar, or "Burma" as you say. We are being very
careful to examine every aspect of involvement. We are making
efforts but it is difficult to get information from Burma.
Political oppression is a matter for the Japanese government to deal with.
We will follow whatever our government policy dictates. We are
only interested in economic development and believe that the
careful decisions we make can only help the people of Myanmar.
Activists: You need to realize there is an obvious linkage between
economic development and the money that comes from that development
and subsequently used by SLORC to further their illegal hold over
Let's consider a worse case scenario: SLORC jails Aung San Suu Kyi. What
would Mitsubishi be prepared to do about such an action that would ignore
the wishes of the Burmese people who gave her an 82% electoral victory
over the military ? Do you have any such contingency plan?
Yoshikawa: No, but I don't think that would happen.
Activists: I would think that Mitsubishi would have considered this if, as
you say, you are concerned about all aspects of a business
environment that includes the authorities who set conditions for
trade and investment. Mitsubishi can not separate itself from the actions
of the government: doing business in Burma is doing business with
SLORC. Corporations in Burma are widely perceived as placing
profits before human rights.
Yoshikawa: We are NOT interested only in profits. Mitsubishi has a long
record of concern for the environment and for strengthening community. In
the 1930's we wrote into our charter the environmental and
harmonious community-building principles that we support. We have an
ethics committee involving the top executives that review such questions.
Activists: That's very commendable and we applaud that, but it raises a
serious question. Given the human rights violations of SLORC, you can't say
it's merely a political question and should be left to the government.
SLORC's use of forced slave labor, it's record of an estimated 13,000
political protesters killed, and hundreds of thousands of refugees in other
countries must contradict the principles of the Mitsubishi
Corporation. Surely you can put pressure on the military junta for
violations of principles your corporation believes in.
Yoshikawa: We cannot interfere. It's not our position to do so. That's
the government's role and we will abide by whatever the government decides.
Let me ask you,...have you talked to the Japanese government?
Activists: Yes, and it was very revealing. The government official spoke
of having two pipes: two conduits of communication: one to SLORC and the
other to Aung San Ssu Kyi. To us that is mere opportunism.
Yoshikawa: Opportunism? Don't you think it's a good idea to keep all
lines open for discussion?
Activists: Discussion of what? Contracts? If your purpose is long- range
profit, then it would seem so. If your purpose is to build community and
adhere to environmental standards, both of which SLORC is grossly
abusing, then no. Actually, we can not help but believe that the "two
pipes" mean that the government is waiting to see who will control the
nation,..whether or not it's a military dictatorship suppressing the
rights of the people or a democratic government with 82% of the
popular vote doesn't seem to matter. We in Burma say that the Japanese are
slow in making a decision but once it's made the whole nation is on our
doorstep. I firmly believe that Aung San Suu Kyi will rightfully
come to power, and when she does we'll remember who were our friends.
Yoshikawa: Regardless of what we think we can not interfere in politics.
Activists: It's not interference,...it's adherence to company principles.
Yoshikawa: We think it would be interference. The wisest course is to
proceed carefully with patience. We have responsibility to our shareholders
and working in tandem with our government, we feel the best results will be
made. We DO feel a sense of responsibility for community. I'm very glad
that we had this opportunity to speak. I feel we know each other better
now. Please realize that we keep ourselves informed: I read all the
information that comes from the Burma Democracy Movement.
Activists: Before our remarks become circular, we'd just like to point out
what we feel is the bottom line concern for all of us. We don't perceive
the people at Mitsubishi as evil people, you've scaled the
entrance-examination system successfully, are basically good family people
and have a high sense of loyalty as you say to your stockholders and
community. The "evil" is that loyalty to GNP growth-oriented economics, no
matter how prudent, is destroying the environments and the peoples living
sustainedly in them. Nature has a carrying capacity,...we and our
technology aren't in charge because if we violate nature's limits we
destroy the ecological base supporting our lives. Still, mere survival
isn't the bottom line as we see it, the bottom line is the health of the
villages and the people who can show us the way to sustainable agronomy.
As villages disappear and urban sprawl takes its place, the need to keep
law and order will give us many SLORCs and the this planet will become a
pretty mean place to live on. Mitsubishi would be a true pioneer if it went
to SLORC and expressed its concerns now before SLORC is overthrown and you
approach Aung San Suu Kyi with hearty assurances that you are so happy to
see civilization return to Burma. It might just sound hollow, especially
when you tell her that you can now do business with someone who adheres to
your high standards of community and environmental health.
Yoshikawa: (a kindly smile)
We were now beginning to truly repeat ourselves, but we left feeling we
understood each other better. Our image of the transnational corporate
world was reinforced and for Mr. Yoshikawa, it's hard to know, but the
obvious inconsistancies between principles/reality may have generated some
reflection. We're hardly holding our breath, though. Their priorities
remain the same.