De facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport Tuesday evening, kicking off a five-day visit where she will meet with government officials, business leaders and students at Kyoto University, where she was once a visiting scholar.
Suu Kyi, 71, who concurrently serves as Myanmar’s state counselor and foreign minister, will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday night to primarily discuss economic development.
She is scheduled to hold a news conference Friday at the Japan Press Club in Tokyo.
The visit comes amid international concern over allegations of violence by the military against Myanmar’s Rohingya population, an ethnic minority Muslim group.
According to a Reuters report Oct. 8, eight Rohingya women, all from the village of U Shey Kya in Rakhine province in northwestern Myanmar, described in detail how soldiers raided their homes, looted property and raped them at gunpoint.
Government forces have been fighting Rohingya insurgents in the province where nine policemen and four soldiers were reported killed on or around Oct. 9.
More than 800,000 Rohingya, to whom the government of Myanmar has long refused to grant citizenship despite heavy criticism from human right groups, are believed to have been displaced.
The long-standing ethnic conflict has garnered international attention.
Asked if Suu Kyi and Abe will discuss the alleged violence against Rohingya Muslims while she is in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment.
The two “will exchange opinions about wide-ranging areas, but we’d like to refrain from speculating what they discuss during their meeting in advance,” Suga said.
He also said the government “will closely keep watching” the situation.
Unlike many Western countries, Japan has rarely taken strong positions on human rights issues in dealing with leaders from countries with questionable records.
During a daily news briefing in Washington on Monday, John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, said: “We have seen some very recent reports of alleged abuses there (Myanmar), and we obviously take those very, very seriously.
“We are urging the government to be transparent, to implement the rule of law, to respect human rights,” Kirby said.
The government of Myanmar denies many of the allegations of abuse.
Suu Kyi took power in March following her party’s victory in the national elections the previous November.
Prior to her party’s win, Japan long provided economic assistance to Myanmar while it was ruled by a military junta.
Tokyo claimed the aid was intended to help ordinary people, not the military government.
Suu Kyi so far has maintained the military government’s policy of denying citizenship to the Rohingya.
Myanmar’s military-drafted constitution prevents Suu Kyi from becoming the country’s president because it bars those with a foreign spouse or child from assuming the office.
In the past, she has called for revision of the constitution to promote further democratization of the country.
But in recent months, she has taken a more pragmatic approach given the power the former military leaders and their crony tycoons still hold in the country.
She spends more time now promoting economic development.
“In reality, she is not almighty as far as Myanmar politics are concerned,” a senior Japanese official said. “In a sense, Suu Kyi’s administration is a coalition government with the military.”
During her five-day stay, she will meet business leaders in Tokyo on Friday after meeting the students at Kyoto University Thursday where she resided from 1985 through 1986 as a visiting researcher on her father, Gen. Aung San, considered the father of modern-day Myanmar.
Officials have said Japanese assistance for Myanmar is likely to include programs for improving electricity generation and transportation infrastructure in the Yangon area.
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