Japan offers Myanmar minorities aid package to sweeten peace talks

Kyodo

Japan plans to provide ¥10 billion chiefly in grants over the next five years to Myanmar to bolster the living standards of ethnic minorities that have suffered from years of internal conflict in the country, government sources said.

Tokyo intends to provide the aid to help accelerate the peace talks between the government of President Thein Sein and ethnic rebels, the sources said Saturday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to provide more than ¥150 billion in loans and grants to Myanmar to support the development of the resource-rich country and strengthen bilateral economic ties.

Autonomy-seeking rebels in Myanmar have battled the military for years, spurring many to flee underdeveloped areas marred by conflict along the country’s borders with China and Thailand.

The Thein Sein regime has pledged to engineer a national reconciliation and is seeking to conclude cease-fires with each of the rebel groups to secure a comprehensive nationwide truce.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the nation’s largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy, has been calling on the Thein Sein regime and the rebels to reconcile and establish a truce.

Japan aims to help speed up the reconciliation process by giving aid to the ethnic groups which can also be used to improve the overall living standards of the people, the sources said.

The Japanese government plans to team up with nongovernmental organizations to compile the assistance, which will be provided in the form of grants-in-aid to supply food and medicine, improve infrastructure and help the displaced resettle in areas from which they fled.

Details of these aid projects will be hammered out after obtaining the consent of both the Myanmar government and the minority groups, they said.