Japan Pledges ¥10 Billion to Aid Myanmar’s Ethnic MinoritiesPolitics Society
On January 6, 2014, the Japanese government announced that it will provide a total of ¥10 billion in aid to Myanmar over the next five years. This will contribute to democratization efforts in the country by assisting the peacebuilding process in areas where armed ethnic groups have been fighting against the central government. On the same day, Japan’s ambassador to Myanmar, Numata Mikio, and Japan’s special envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar, Sasakawa Yōhei, held a joint press conference in the former capital of Yangon.
Myanmar has been largely isolated from the international community since 1988, when the country’s socialist government was replaced by a military junta. In the years since then, the people of Myanmar have faced harsh living conditions and conflict has raged between the military government and armed ethnic groups demanding greater autonomy.
Following the recent shift toward civilian rule, the Myanmar government has embarked on a major nation-building project, making rapid inroads toward democratization and market reform. In line with these changes, negotiations have been underway on a ceasefire agreement with armed ethnic groups throughout the country.
Through its aid donation, Japan aims to facilitate this reconciliation effort and to improve the lives of people in ethnic minority areas and elsewhere, fostering human resources and putting in place the necessary economic infrastructure. This will include emergency assistance to distribute food and medicine via NPOs to areas impacted by armed conflict. These efforts seek to bolster the peacebuilding process and to assist democratization and sustainable development in Myanmar.
The recent announcement comes in addition to a previous pledge of ¥100 billion in financial aid to fund infrastructure projects made after two meetings between Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and President Thein Sein in 2013.
It is envisaged that aid will be distributed by Japanese non-governmental groups that meet certain requirements. These requirements will include gaining official permission from the Myanmar government to operate in areas where conflict is ongoing, as well as permission from the ethnic groups themselves.
Sasakawa Yōhei has been engaged in the effort to bring about a reconciliation between the Myanmar government and armed ethnic minority groups for many years; the most recent pledge of assistance by Japan follows a recommendation he made to the Japanese government.
(Article originally written in Japanese; photographs courtesy of the Nippon Foundation.)