The May 3 editorial “Japan’s approach to Myanmar” is timely and meaningful. It not only reflects the good will of The Japan Times toward the people of Myanmar but also provides a good grasp of the prevailing situation there. I only hope that the contents are not lost on Myanmar policymakers in the Japanese government.
A little more than a year has passed since Aung San Suu Kyi was elected as a member of parliament. The duo of opposition leader Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein have made considerable progress toward the democratization of Myanmar. However, they still have a long way to go and they could still be waylaid.
Recently sectarian violence has flared up in some parts of the country, and negotiations between ethnic rebels and the central government have bogged down. Some groups of human rights and media pundits have criticized Suu Kyi for failing to resolve these problems. The fact is that the country’s problems are broad, varied and deep-rooted, and nobody is able to solve them overnight.
Suu Kyi may have panache, but she is no panacea. Besides, she is not in power and simply cannot resolve these problems with a wave of her hand as if it were a magic wand. She is making Herculean efforts to lay down the foundation of democracy to amend the undemocratic and seemingly unconstitutional constitution in force so that the rule of law prevails in the country.
As for official development assistance, Japan can do a lot to help Myanmar. As a matter of fact, Japan has already shown its largesse and good will by waiving billions of dollars worth of Myanmar debt and promising to provide fresh loans and aid. But ODA should be geared toward people’s needs. Transparency and accountability need to be prerequisites. I am sure that Suu Kyi conveyed her ideas to Japanese leaders when she met them during her visit.
If I am not mistaken, it was Burma (aka Myanmar) that sponsored Japan’s admission to the United Nations in 1956. And unlike the sentiments that the vast majority of the people of Myanmar harbor against their Big Brother to the north, they look to Japan with friendship, appreciation and admiration.
It is vital that Japan not negate these sentiments by heedlessly trying to reap economic benefits for Japanese corporations in collaboration with Myanmar’s powerful few at the expense of the common people, as was the case during China’s days in Myanmar.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.