Japan Suspends New Aid Programs to Myanmar After Massacres
By The Irrawaddy 31 March 2021
Myanmar’s largest development aid provider, Japan, says it has suspended new aid programs following Saturday’s brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
Human rights groups have repeatedly urged Japan to suspend its official development assistance (ODA) programs and impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar’s coup leaders.
Japan has tried to set itself up as a competitor to China’s growing presence in Myanmar over the last decade.
Japan’s foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, told the Japanese parliament: “Japan is the largest provider of economic assistance to Myanmar and we aren’t planning any new projects. We have taken a clear stance.”
The foreign minister urged the withholding of development assistance, which would do more to put pressure on the military than sanctions.
Over nearly two decades, Japan has provided around 1 trillion yen (12.8 trillion kyats) in loans, more than 300 billion yen in grants and 88 billion yen in technical assistance, according to human rights groups.
Japan’s foreign ministry said it provided nearly 190 billion yen in ODA to Myanmar in 2019, including 68.8 billion yen in loans, 13.8 billion yen in grants and 6.6 billion yen in technical assistance.
In last year’s budget, Japan committed to four loans worth about US$1.1 billion (1.6 trillion kyats) to fund sewerage, urban development, power distribution and infrastructure projects in seven regions and states.
On Sunday, Japan signed a joint statement from the defense chiefs of 12 nations condemning the regime’s use of lethal force against the civilians, following the massacre of more than 100 civilians on Armed Forces Day.
Tokyo has not yet imposed targeted sanctions on the coup leaders. Since 2016, Japan has been the fifth-largest investor in Myanmar, with 37 registered enterprises. It invested more than $1.3 billion under the National League for Democracy administration, according to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.
Following the coup, Japanese beverage giant Kirin ended its joint-venture with the military-owned conglomerate, Myanma Economic Holdings Public Co. Ltd.
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