Last Trip of the Year: Myanmar [2011/12/12]
Last Trip of the Year: Myanmar
From today, December 12, through December 20, I’ll be taking a nine-day trip to Myanmar.
Myanmar’s rapid progress toward democracy has evoked action from the otherwise reluctant United States, which continues to maintain stringent economic sanctions against Myanmar, in the form of a recent visit by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
In Washington DC, in May 2010, I presented my candid views on the situation in Myanmar and Sri Lanka to Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, Clinton’s chief assistant. I later received a polite letter from him, although he had resigned from office by that time. There is a human rights faction at the White House that takes a harsh view toward the two countries, but I earnestly hope Secretary Clinton’s visit will pave the way for the lifting of economic sanctions.
During my trip, I’m planning to meet with Myanmar officials, including the president, minister of foreign affairs, minister of health, minister of border affairs, and minister of social welfare.
It has been decided that Myanmar will chair the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Myanmar has little experience with international conferences. In response to this, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (SPF) will implement a new program specifically designed to develop personnel capable of chairing ASEAN, as an addition to the longstanding SPF programs human-resource programs in the field of government administration.
In addition, I plan to take a three hour trip by hovercraft from Sittwe, located near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh, to visit Mrauk U. There I will observe some activities being carried out under the Nippon Foundation projects to eliminate leprosy, to help distribute medical kits with traditional medicines to 7,000 villages, and to construct 200 elementary schools in remote areas.
Other highlights of the trip will be the chance to meet the mayor of Yangon, who is an old friend of mine, and to attend a gathering in Yangon of more than 120 people―including graduates of the United Nations University for Peace who have taken part in Nippon Foundation human resources development programs, Sasakawa Fellowship students from the World Maritime University in Sweden, disabled people, allies in the fight to eradicate leprosy, people who have worked in a program to distribute traditional medicines, and those who have completed public-service training programs.