ミャンマー支援 民主化と市場経済に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Apr. 23, 2012)
Back Myanmar's democracy, economic reforms
ミャンマー支援 民主化と市場経済に生かせ(4月22日付・読売社説)

In throwing its support behind Myanmar's democratic transition, Japan deserves high marks for embarking on full-fledged development assistance to the Southeast Asian country ahead of the United States and European nations.

We hope this will be the start of stronger relations between Japan and Myanmar, which is in its democratic infancy.

President Thein Sein of Myanmar met Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Tokyo on Saturday during a visit that included participation in a six-way meeting with the leaders of four other Mekong Basin countries--Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

In his meeting with Thein Sein, Noda said Japan would resume low-interest, long-term yen loans that have been suspended since the 1988 military crackdown on Myanmar's pro-democracy demonstrations. Resumption of Japan's development loans to Myanmar will add impetus to upgrading the country's large-scale infrastructure, such as roads and ports.

Myanmar's nascent democracy is on the threshold of being put to the test.

In parliamentary by-elections on April 1, Myanmar's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, led by democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, won a landslide victory.


Watch out for conservatives

In spite of their crushing defeat, the ruling party and the country's military still hold 80 percent of the seats in the legislature.

Can the parliament play its role in fully pressing ahead with political and economic reforms? A popular verdict on this question will be handed down in the general election scheduled for 2015.

What is of utmost concern is that those with vested interests, centering around conservatives in Myanmar's armed forces who are unhappy with the democratic reforms, might maneuver to oust Thein Sein.

Another cause of concern is that Suu Kyi and other NLD members may be prevented from taking their seats in the parliament. This is because the NLD, which wants the country's pro-military Constitution revised, opposes having its members sworn in as parliamentarians by taking an oath to "safeguard the Constitution."

Meanwhile, the United States and European Union have been moving toward easing their sanctions on Myanmar.

The U.S. administration of President Barack Obama has announced its plans to gradually ease some of its sanctions. Last week, Washington relaxed financial restrictions on nongovernmental organizations' humanitarian and developmental assistance for Myanmar. The EU also will soon discuss the suspension of some Myanmar sanctions.

During military rule, Myanmar's diplomacy was dependent almost completely on China. Now the country is set to improve relations with Japan as well as the United States and European nations.


Cooperation with Thailand

For Japan, the United States and European countries, consolidating relations with a nation of strategic pivotal importance that links Southeast Asia and South Asia is essential to counter China's growing influence.

Human resources needed to carry out Myanmar's democratic reforms and organize the market economy are seriously lacking.

Japan should extend a helping hand to Myanmar in a wide range of fields. Among them are development of younger-generation bureaucratic personnel, cooperation in creating a securities exchange, improving the livelihood of minority ethnic groups and enhancing agricultural skills.

From the viewpoint of tapping Asia's growth potential to assist Japan's economic resuscitation, it also is extremely important to deepen relations with such Mekong Basin countries as Thailand and Vietnam.

One idea might be for Japanese businesses to cooperate with Thailand in investing in Myanmar, as Thailand has a strong influence over the new democracy.

It is worth noting that Japan, in the six-way summit, proposed a three-year cooperation plan for such purposes as improving infrastructure in the Mekong Basin.

Japan's public and private sectors must use all means possible to ensure the envisioned cooperation can be achieved effectively.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 22, 2012)
(2012年4月22日01時50分 読売新聞)

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