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«Peace building experiences in Indonesia and Japan (Vol. 2) | Main | 平和構築におけるコミュニティ・メディアの役割 Vol.1»
Peace building experiences in Indonesia and Japan (Vol.3) [2011年04月22日(Fri)]
(continued fron Vol.2)

Interview with Japanese parliamentarian Naoto Sakaguchi, advo-
cator for peace in the Chittagong Hill Tract conflict, Bangladesh.
Sakaguchi, member of the Democrat Party of Japan, is one of the
few Japanese politicians to play an active role in Asian conflicts.

The Chittagon Hill Tract mountain belt borders Bangladesh, India,
Burma and Yunnan province of China. Its rugged terrain is home
to many indigenous people, each with their unique culture. The
Jummas people live along the mountain border of Bangladesh
with Burma and India. They comprise around thirteen ethnic
groups living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Jumma means “shifting
cultivator” in the native language. Their political demand is not
for separatism but for “official recognition as indigenous peoples
of Bangladesh and a certain amount of autonomy congruous with
their culture.” They must coexist with majority population are
the Bengali who are of Muslim faith. Bangladesh has a popula-
tion of 140 million and is one of the poorest country’s in the
world. Land is scarce and a large part is covered by water
causing massive floods annually. Overall, there is little infor-
mation about the Jumma and the violation of their human
rights in Bangladesh that treats these people as primitive
tribes who live in the mountains. Government policy has led to
large number of Bengalis into the Chittagong hill areas under
a settlers program leading to endless conflicts over ownership
of land with the Jumma. The Chittagong Peace Accord peace
accord was signed in 1997 which recognized long-standing
political demands of the Jumma such as constitutional recogni-
tion of their rights and withdrawal of settlers. But the conflict
has escalated into mutual killings and abductions with some
political groups among the Jumma aiming for full autonomy
rather than implementation of a peace accord.

Q. What was the underlying reason for your interest in the
Chittagong conflict?

Sakaguchi: My initiation into the Chittagong was quite simple—a
former student of mine had visited the region and had become
involved with bringing peace to the people there. When she
spoke to me of her experience, I became very interested myself.
I had a strong urge to contribute to peace building as a politician
and individual.
So I decided to visit and learn more and accompanied an Japa-
nese active non-governmental organization, the Jumma Net.
I wanted to meet the indigenous people and became the first
Japanese Diet person to visit Chittagong. There I learnt first
hand the aspirations of the local people who have their own
distinct culture and customs. Their land is rich in nature and
their harvests of special spices and herbs and tradition of weav-
ing makes it a beautiful destination for eco tourism especially
that could bring them important finances for development. The
other aspect of my visit was obviously to understand their
suffering from discrimination from the majority race of the country
which had led to poorer education levels, less employement
opportunities and poor standards of living in the region.

Q. How do you think you can contribute to peace building as a
Japanese politician?
Sakaguchi: An important development from my visit to Chittagong
was to bring the conflict to the Diet in Japan where it was dis-
cussed. I did this to bring pressure on the Japanese government
that is one of the largest contributor of aid to the Bangladesh
government. The issue of human rights protection must be
incorporated in Japanese overseas assistance and it was
important the government show their solidarity with the ethnic
groups who were pushed out of their ancestral land. I have also
been involved in monitoring elections to ensure fair results
in countries with conflicts in the region which has taken me
to Sri Lanka, Cambodia, East Timor and Afghanistan. I believe
the presence of a Japanese politician sends a strong message
to the people and governments in those countries to know
that the rights of the people must be protected.

Q What is your concept of peace?
Sakaguchi: Peace building in post conflict societies must be
geared to help affected populations to be able to find normal
lives.This can be achieved from different standpoints—
rebuilding damaged infrastructure, creating livelihoods, security,
and helping survivors to get over trauma through education,
medical and mental support to foster reconciliation with their
enemies. Japan, with its own postwar experience, technology and
funds, can lead the way in this process.

Thank you for speaking with us.