Myanmar nation building must be supported by govt, private sector
Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar's largest opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has visited Japan at the invitation of the government and had successive meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and others.
This is her first visit in 27 years. She was a guest researcher at Kyoto University in the mid-1980s before getting involved in the democracy movement in her home country.
Suu Kyi confronted the junta and was placed under house arrest for a total of about 15 years. Her Japan visit symbolizes Myanmar's democratization, which has been promoted by the administration of President Thein Sein since the country changed to civilian rule two years ago.
The Japanese government has welcomed the Thein Sein administration's reform efforts and has been proactively supporting the country through such actions as restarting official development assistance projects, including yen loans, ahead of the United States or European countries.
NLD and democratization
The government is trying to strengthen its relationship with the NLD on the thinking that growth of a sound opposition party in the national assembly could lead to further democratization of the country and stability of society. It is also thought that the NLD is likely to further gain strength in a general election to be held in 2015.
Abe told Suu Kyi during their talks, "We'd like to support your country so that reform can progress further." He then explained to her the government's policy of supporting Myanmar's nation building through ODA and private investment.
Suu Kyi responded that she hopes Japan will cooperate with Myanmar in the country's development. She asked for Japan's assistance for her country in vocational and agricultural education, among other fields.
Since she was elected in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Assembly of the Union, in spring last year, she has been trying to transform from a pro-democracy leader outside the government into a pragmatic politician. To respond to supporters' expectations, she needs concrete achievements such as an improvement in the country's standard of living.
There is a rough road ahead for Myanmar's nation building. As Suu Kyi insists, the Constitution must be revised for further democratization, including the abolishment of guaranteed seats for the military in the assembly, which are stipulated in the Constitution to secure the military's political influence.
Efforts of the Myanmar government to improve relations with ethnic minorities who have confronted it have seen rough going, meaning national reconciliation is not in sight. Also, worsening public security may pour cold water onto Japanese companies' passion for investment in the country.
Of all countries, Japan is providing the most economic assistance to Myanmar. It is important for Japan that the public and private sectors cooperate in development assistance to Myanmar, which contributes to the stabilization of society, such as raising the standard of living for ethnic minorities and improvement in roads and electricity.
The strategic value of Myanmar, which is situated in an important location between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, has been ever increasing. Myanmar has turned away from its exclusively pro-China diplomacy under military rule and has been strengthening relations with such countries as Japan, India and the United States.
To keep China, which has been increasing its influence through military and economic expansion, in check, it is important for Japan to deepen relations with Myanmar.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2013)