BANGKOK – Japan is considering providing large-scale assistance to Myanmar in such areas as building infrastructure and urban planning at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a government source.
The Abe government is arranging to offer a total of more than ¥100 billion in loans and grants under Japan’s official development assistance as Myanmar is expected to go through major changes when Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy takes control of the government in April, the source said Sunday.
Tokyo wants to accelerate discussions on the matter after the NLD comes into power and compile a detailed plan by around June, in the hope that it will be able to have concrete assistance plans set before other countries, according to the source.
The United States and European nations that have been supporting Suu Kyi from the time she endured suppression under military rule are also likely to come to her aid, while China, which was close to the junta, is also approaching the NLD.
Suu Kyi made the request for Japan’s assistance when Hiroto Izumi, special adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visited her in Myanmar in February, the source said.
Japan’s ODA projects are likely to include programs for improving electricity generation and transportation infrastructure in the Yangon area, as the NLD is placing priority on furthering Myanmar’s economic advancement.
The area around the country’s largest city suffers from chronic power shortages as well as traffic congestion due to a sudden rise in the number of automobiles in recent years.
Suu Kyi also mentioned to Izumi building water transportation systems in Myanmar’s rivers, the source said.
The NLD plans to compile measures this month aimed at improving health care standards, and the source said Japan may also work on a project in line with this policy.
Suu Kyi cannot become president under Myanmar’s current Constitution, but she has indicated that she will effectively lead the country while having another person serve in the post.
A constitutional clause bars anyone with a foreign spouse or foreign children from becoming president. Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and their two sons hold British nationality.
Izumi told her the Abe government considers her to be the real leader of Myanmar’s new government, the source said.
Japan has enhanced financial assistance to Myanmar since 2011 when the country began a shift toward democracy from decades of military rule.
Earlier, Suu Kyi was said to have been dissatisfied that Japan had maintained relations with the junta and, unlike the United States and European countries, did not impose tough economic sanctions on Myanmar even as the military government put her under house arrest for years.
But as Myanmar needs all the cooperation it can get for its economic development, Suu Kyi appears ready to work with Japan, which in turn is hoping to build good relations with the NLD-led government.