Japan NGO to Provide $3 Million Aid to Burma's Minorities

By Lawi Weng 19 October 2012

A Japanese Non-Governmental Organization will provide 3 million US dollars to the ongoing peace process in Burma to help ethnic refugees who have suffered from over five decades of civil war, said prominent ethnic leaders.

Hkun Okker, the joint secretary of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the Nippon Foundation, a Japanese philanthropic organization, will provide the funds some time around the end of this year.

“The NGOs are testing us as to whether the aid will work or not,” he said. “If the program is successful, there will be more things to do.”

He said the aid will be distributed cross-border and even inside Burma where ethnic people are still suffering the effects of war. He said the funds will go toward rice and other basic foodstuffs, and if possible, toward health and education.

A UNFC delegation hosted a meeting with officials of the Nippon Foundation in Japan on Thursday when the foundation encouraged the ethnic armed groups to make a strong commitment to peace talks with the Burmese government.

The delegation also asked Japan to observe and monitor the peace process in Burma, to which the Nippon Foundation said it would agree to help, but first needed approval from the Burmese government.

The UNFC is formed of 12 ethnic armed groups in Burma, many of which have signed ceasefires with Naypyidaw in the past year.

The Burmese government announced that it had signed truces with 11 main ethnic armed groups, with just the Kachin rebels remaining. Members of the UNFC have repeatedly asked the government to call a nationwide ceasefire and stop fighting in Kachin State, but peace is still fragile in the region.