Abe to be urged to up support for Myanmar democratization efforts

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold talks Thursday with Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, during which they are expected to discuss Japanese support for the democratization process in her country, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.

Suu Kyi, who is on her first visit to Japan in 27 years following more than 14 years of house arrest and detainment, is also expected to call on Japanese firms to invest in her country, which is fast attracting businesses for its relatively cheap labor after its transition to a democratic government in March 2011.

Ahead of her talks with Abe, the 67-year-old head of the National League for Democracy was scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida later Tuesday at the Iikura Guesthouse in Tokyo, with Myanmar’s recent democratic and economic development likely to be on the agenda.

Suga voiced hope that “Japan can take the lead in forging the basis of reconciliation and development” amid ongoing religious and ethnic tensions in Myanmar.

For that purpose, the government has named the chairman of the Nippon Foundation, Yohei Sasakawa, as a representative to help attain peace between the Myanmar government and ethnic minorities in the country, Suga explained.

Violence has intensified between Muslims and Buddhists, who account for around 90 percent of the population, while ethnic conflicts among minority groups have also become obstacles to the country’s drive for democracy.

On Tuesday, Suu Kyi was also to meet with Crown Prince Naruhito, Upper House President Kenji Hirata and around a dozen Diet members working to promote bilateral ties.

Abe will be the first Japanese prime minister to hold talks with Suu Kyi.