De facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on Wednesday, as Japan pledged to extend economic assistance worth ¥40 billion over the next five years for regions that are home to ethnic minority groups.
After the meeting at the Government Guesthouse, Abe told reporters that Japan hopes the aid will help Myanmar to settle its deeply rooted ethnic conflicts, an issue that ranks among the top priority goals for Suu Kyi, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The Japanese government and Japan-based private-sector businesses are now ready to contribute about ¥800 billion in total to the country’s development programs over the next five years, Abe also said.
“Japan will thoroughly support the new administration” led by Suu Kyi, he added.
During the joint press announcement, Suu Kyi thanked Japan for extending years of economic assistance.
“Our relationship with Japan has been developing smoothly,” Suu Kyi said through a translator.
She also said she will try to promote economic development and build peace within the country at the same time, saying the two efforts are “inseparable” from each other.
Suu Kyi, who concurrently serves as the state counselor and foreign minister, and Abe attended a ceremony to sign an agreement on Japan’s dispatch of a team of volunteers, called Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, to Myanmar.
Following the signing, the two leaders briefly spoke in a ceremony but did not accept questions from reporters.
Neither discussed recent alleged human rights abuses of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar soldiers in Rakhine state.
Following a series of reported attacks by Rohingya extremists, Myanmar’s military has launched a crackdown in the state.
Myanmar soldiers have been accused of raping and killing Rohingya civilians there, allegations that the government denies.
Aid workers and journalists have also reportedly been denied access to the state.
According to Reuters, a group of parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations called Wednesday for Myanmar to conduct a “thorough and impartial investigation into reports of abuses by security forces” against civilians in Rakhine.
Meanwhile, the ambassadors of the United States, China, Britain and the European Union left the Rakhine capital of Sittwe on Wednesday to travel to the northern part of the state.
Suu Kyi has pledged to ease a number of ongoing ethnic conflicts in her country, which has more than 130 ethnic groups.
The Nobel laureate has organized large-scale meetings with minority groups and increased dialogue since she first took power in March, but has yet to see any tangible results.
Her government has, meanwhile, maintained the military government’s policy of not granting citizenship to Rohingya Muslims, a stance that has drawn criticism from human right groups.
Myanmar’s military-drafted Constitution has prevented Suu Kyi from becoming the country’s president, and instead her state counselor position effectively gives her the role of leader of the government.
Earlier on Wednesday, Suu Kyi, who began her five-day stay in Japan on Tuesday, was enthusiastically welcomed by about 1,000 residents from Myanmar in Japan at a Tokyo hotel.
Suu Kyi told the audience that she is now trying to reform the political system of her country, but added it will require time, Kyodo News reported.
She also asked people from Myanmar who are living in Japan to enhance the reputation of their country to attract more foreign trade and investment.
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