Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, visited Japan from October 8 to 13 at the invitation of the Japanese Defense Ministry.
As Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, I was sitting in on most of the meetings the senior general held separately with top Japanese officials while in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, Defense Minister Taro Kono and General Koji Yamasaki, Chief of Staff, Joint Staff of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.
At their meetings, Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Motegi each stated: “The Government of Japan will continue to provide full-fledged support for Myanmar’s democratic nation-building, and, together with Special Envoy Sasakawa, will provide maximum support for the peace process.”
Regarding the alleged human rights violations in Rakhine State from where hundreds of thousands of people have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, the Japanese leaders said “it is necessary that the Myanmar government and military promptly take appropriate measures based on the recommendations of the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICoE).”
In response, Commander-in-Chief Hlaing expressed appreciation for the assistance of Japan and stated, “We are cooperating with Special Envoy Sasakawa to achieve peace and resolve the issue of internal displaced people. We desire to accomplish eternal peace.”
“We are fully cooperating with the investigation by the ICoE and will take measures regarding those responsible for human rights violations according to the law if such violations were to be revealed” in Rakhine State, the senior general added.
In my capacity as Special Envoy for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, I welcomed the two days of frank exchanges between the Japanese leaders and Myanmar’s top military officer.
To achieve comprehensive peace in a country like Myanmar, it is crucial to establish mutual understanding with and among the government, the military and the armed ethnic minority groups, who have been feuding for the past seven decades.
Since the 1970s, The Nippon Foundation has provided support to Myanmar, whether under the military regime or later the civilian government, ranging from the fight against leprosy, food and humanitarian assistance, construction of houses and schools, agricultural aid and vocational training, including those for the conflict-stricken people in ethnic minority regions.
I have visited Myanmar 99 times during the past seven years since I assumed the post of Special Envoy for National Reconciliation, arranging face-to-face meetings with all the stakeholders to gain their understanding and confidence.
Through The Nippon Foundation’s years of experience in Myanmar, I believe I have earned some degree of trust from the government, the military and the ethnic armed groups.
So far, 10 out of some 15 ethnic armed groups have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government of Myanmar.
I am determined to persist in my efforts to achieve a ceasefire with the rest of the armed ethnic groups, which will be a major step forward in the complicated peace process.