Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cementing Japanese-Burmese relationship

by Mungpi
Monday, 24 August 2009 22:39

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese Agriculture and Irrigation Minister Maj-Gen Htay Oo’s visit to Japan is yet another sign of the cosy relationship that Japan maintains with Burmese military generals, observers said.

Htay Oo, who is also secretary of the pro-junta civilian organization – the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) – is leading a team of delegates to Japan reportedly to explore possible cooperation with Burma on agriculture and irrigation sectors.

“But that is just a pretext. It's an all-expenses-paid trip. I think the visit is the Japanese government's way of telling the junta that Japan very much supports the regime and its "roadmap to democracy" including the 2010 elections,” Yuki Akimoto, a Japanese researcher on Burma, said.

Akimoto also said, the visit could be the Japanese government’s act to “soften the blow” of its statement that expressed “deep disappointment” over the verdict against Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by the ruling junta.

“At the same time, Japan has always maintained that it has a special channel of communication with the junta, and it does not want to lose that channel by appearing to be aligned with other countries that issued critical statements about the verdict,” she added.

Similarly, Dr. Min Nyo, in-charge of Burma Office in Tokyo said while the visit does not have much significance, it indicates the cosiness in the relationship between Japan and the Burmese junta.

“I don’t think they [Htay Oo and team] can even meet important people here, as every politician is busy campaigning for the elections. But this trip is definitely a part of the two countries bilateral relationship,” Dr. Min Nyo said.

Japan, which is Burma’s largest humanitarian donor, has maintained a good rapport with the Burmese generals and reportedly trained at least five officers in electoral mores as a preparation for the 2010 elections.

Despite its friendly foreign policy vis a vis Burma, Japan, however, joined the international outcry over the sentencing of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi by the ruling generals.

“Before the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi, Japan refrained from criticising the Burmese junta but following the verdict, I think they were not at all happy,” he added.

Dr. Min Nyo played down the significance of the visit, though it is the first highest Burmese official to visit Japan in four years.

He said, with the elections on, it would be extremely difficult for Japanese ministers both ruling or the opposition parties to entertain their Burmese friends.

However, Akimoto believes that it could be a trip in which the Burmese are trying to persuade the new Japanese government not to change their current policy on Burma.

“The government of Japan [by facilitating the visit] may be hoping that Htay Oo will convince the MPs that it is not necessary to change Japan's policy towards Burma,” Akimoto said.

The Japanese opposition party – Democratic Party of Japan – is speculated to win the current elections and is expected to form the government in the next term.

Meanwhile, a group of Burmese activists in Tokyo held demonstrations in front of the Japanese Foreign Ministry protesting against Htay Oo’s visit.

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