Japanese PM Urges Myanmar Military, Govt to Address Rights Issues in Rakhine

By Nan Lwin 21 October 2019

YANGON—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday urged the Myanmar government and military to promptly take appropriate measures in response to allegations of human rights violations in Rakhine State, during a meeting with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Tokyo.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is currently in Japan to attend Tuesday’s enthronement ceremony for Japanese Emperor Naruhito.

During the meeting, Abe said, “With regard to the alleged human rights violations in Rakhine State, it is indispensable that the Myanmar government and military promptly take appropriate measures according to the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Enquiry.”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said she intends to address this issue appropriately and will not hesitate to take necessary measures, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape military operations that the UN has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” The Myanmar military denies the allegations, insisting the crackdown was a response to coordinated attacks on security posts in Rakhine State by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

In July last year, the Myanmar government formed the Independent Commission of Enquiry for Rakhine to investigate allegations of human rights violations and related issues. The body includes two international experts—former Japanese Ambassador to the UN Kenzo Oshima and Philippine diplomat Rosario Manalo.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement in November 2017, but implementation has failed repeatedly and each side blames the other for the delay. Citing resistance to repatriation from the Rohingya who fear for their safety, rights groups have also warned that without legal protections such as citizenship, Rohingya refugees will continue to face persecution in Myanmar.

Abe said “It is essential to create an environment conducive to the repatriation of displaced persons.”

Former Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono has played a mediation role in the Rohingya repatriation process. In July, he visited both Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a “durable and early solution” to the Rohingya crisis.

During Monday’s meeting, Abe promised that the Japanese public and private sectors would continue to provide maximum support for Myanmar.

Abe and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also exchanged views regarding the promotion of investment and employment creation, including development of the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a 2,342-hectare industrial area outside of Yangon. The Thilawa SEZ is the first Japan-Myanmar public-private initiative to be implemented in Myanmar.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also delivered the opening speech at the 2nd Myanmar Investment Conference organized by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), under the title “Accelerated Steps Toward Stronger Business Relationship Between Myanmar and Japan.”

Since Myanmar began to open its economy in 2010, Japan has been actively involved in development projects in the country ranging from the financial sector to railway, road and energy networks.

As of June this year, Japan was the 10th-largest source of foreign investment in Myanmar, according to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

Japanese investment in Myanmar totaled US$252 million (385.2 billion kyats) in 2012, $55 million in 2013, $1 billion in 2014, $590 million in 2015 and $280 million in 2016. It peaked at $1.48 billion in 2017.

The State Counselor has often praised the Thilawa SEZ as a crowning success that highlights the benefits of positive partnership. As of April, a total of over $1.6 billion had flowed into the zone since its opening in 2015. As of June, a total of 108 companies from 19 countries had invested in the Thilawa SEZ.

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