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A top Myanmar military intelligence official will visit Japan later this month at the invitation of the Foreign Ministry in efforts to strengthen dialogue between Tokyo and Yangon through personnel exchanges, ministry officials said Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Kyaw Win is to arrive in Tokyo on Jan. 20 for a 10-day stay, during which he will meet with leaders in political, economic and other circles for an exchange of views on relations between the two countries, the officials said requesting anonymity.

Kyaw Win’s visit is expected to draw criticism from human rights groups — both in Japan and abroad — denouncing the Myanmar military regime for violations of human rights and democratic principles. Although many other high-level regime officials have visited Japan, they have done so only at the invitation of the private sector, mainly businesses.

Kyaw Win is believed to be a right-hand man of Lt. Gen. Khin Nuynt, the regime’s intelligence chief and No. 3 man. Kyaw Win is a deputy director general of the Myanmar Defense Ministry’s Office of Strategic Studies established three years ago. The office is headed by Khin Nuynt.

The Office of Strategic Studies has a uniformed staff of about 40 and is intended to function as a think tank for the commander in chief of the defense services when a civilian government is eventually formed.

The military took power of Myanmar in a 1988 coup and put opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest in 1989. The military then annulled the results of a 1990 election, in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory.

Originally called the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the regime renamed itself the State Peace and Development Council in November 1997.

Although Myanmar was admitted to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in July 1997, it is still shunned by large parts of the international community for shortcomings in human rights and democracy. The United States and industrialized European nations have even toughened economic and other sanctions against Myanmar in the past few years due to the SPDC’s continued crackdown on the prodemocracy movement led by Suu Kyi.

Although Japan suspended fresh economic aid for Myanmar, except that for humanitarian purposes, after the coup, it has staunchly advocated a policy of “constructive engagement” with the SPDC to encourage favorable changes in Myanmar.

Japan is widely believed to have played a key role behind the scenes in persuading the military regime to release Suu Kyi from house arrest in the summer of 1995.

Japan has had a long and amicable relationship with Myanmar. Aung San, Suu Kyi’s father, a revolutionary hero for the country, received training in Japan during World War II. “We have maintained personnel exchanges with Myanmar even since the 1988 coup. We need to further strengthen channels of dialogue with the NLD as well as with the SPDC all the more because the Myanmar situation is now deadlocked,” one Foreign Ministry official said, also requesting anonymity.

Defending the ministry’s decision to invite Kyaw Win, the official said it will be significant for such a key Myanmar figure to see firsthand how Japanese feel about the SPDC.

“There are various opinions in Japan about the SPDC. Some people are sympathetic to the SPDC but others are critical of it,” the official said. “But Japanese people who visit Myanmar usually do not make any remarks that make the ears of SPDC officials burn. This leaves them with an inaccurate impression that no Japanese people have bad feelings toward them.”

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