Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Japanese Parliamentarians critical of Burma policy

by Mungpi

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The ongoing trial against opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has attracted the attention of Japanese Parliamentarians, raising questions regarding Japan’s stance on Burma.

At least 70 Japanese Parliamentarians on Wednesday urged the government to push for a six-party type of talks – a-la-North Korea – concerning Burma, inclusive of regional countries and China. The Parliamentarians say Japan must kick-start the process in order to ensure genuine change comes to the militarily-ruled Southeast Asian nation.

Dr. Min Nyo, a representative of the National Council of the Union of Burma, an exile opposition umbrella group, said Japanese Diet (Parliament) members have of late responded to events unfolding in Burma and would much regret if the junta sentences Aung San Suu Kyi to yet another spell of detention.

“There were a lot of questions from the Parliamentarians both from the ruling and opposition parties on the events in Burma and in relation to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial,” said Dr. Min Nyo, referring to an emergency meeting of the Japanese Diet members concerning the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi conducted on Wednesday.

He said the meeting was led by the Union of Japanese Diet Members for the support of Democracy in Burma (GIREN) and drew the participation of leaders from the Japanese Labor Union as well as the Director of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the main body responsible for shaping Japan’s Burma policy.

Traditionally, Japan has maintained a quiet diplomacy with the Burmese military junta, often refusing to publicly condemn the junta while still citing concern over events transpiring in the conflict-stricken country.

“But today, Parliamentarians and other leaders of the Labor Union have asked the Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take note of their concern and to push the government for stronger action,” Dr. Min Nyo emphasized.

Japan is the largest donor country in terms of providing humanitarian aid in the form of emergency health projects, training and technological assistance to Burma.

Following the latest charges leveled against Aung San Suu Kyi, the Japanese Foreign Ministry issued three unilateral statements and a joint statement. In all the unilateral statements, Japan acknowledged that the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi is an internal affair but expressed its hope that the junta’s 2010 election will be well received by the international community.

Yuki Akinomoto, director of the Burma Information Network-Japan, said Japan’s policy vis-à-vis Burma is to endorse the junta’s roadmap to democracy and support the 2010 election, so that it can fully engage with Burma without restrictions on aid or investment.

“Therefore, probably the best case scenario for Japan is for the 2010 elections to be held reasonably ‘well’ so that no one will object to Japan increasing aid and generally resuming normal relations with Burma,” Akinomoto conjectured.

Akinomoto said Japan is also concerned about the growing Chinese influence in Burma and the Mekong region in general, which is why it is now planning to host a Japan-Mekong summit, including Burma and excluding China, later this year.

After the death of Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai in Rangoon during the September 2007 uprising, the Japanese government threatened to terminate its humanitarian aid to Burma.

“Following the death of Kenji Nagai Japan sent an envoy but the issue remained unaddressed,” Dr. Min Nyo added.

But he said the latest events regarding the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi have provoked the interest of many Parliamentarians.

“The Parliamentarians said if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is sentenced, the Japanese government must act to push for substantive change in Burma by introducing a six-party talk that will include countries influential to Burma,” he expounded.

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