Speaking at a ceremony in the village of Lay Kay Kaw, Kayin State, in southeastern Myanmar on November 27, 2019, to mark the completion of 1,650 houses for conflict-affected people.
I visited southeastern Myanmar in late November to attend a ceremony to mark the completion of 1,650 houses for returned IDPs (internally displaced persons) and repatriated refugees.
The houses were built under the second phase of a project The Nippon Foundation began in 2016, with funds provided by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the areas controlled by the ethnic armed organizations that have signed cease-fire deals with the Myanmar government.
Besides the residential buildings, we built 27 schools, 7 healthcare centers and 29 wells. Under the first phase of the project, we built 1,250 houses, 7 schools, 4 healthcare clinics, 5 wells and 1 bridge.
I joined the ceremony held in the village of Lay Kay Kaw in the state of Kayin on November 27 as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, together with Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama. The Myanmar side was represented by General Saw Mutu Sae Poe, chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU), Ms. Nang Khin Htwe Myint, Chief Minister of Kayin State and General Mya Tun Oo, Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy and Air) of the Defense Services of Myanmar, as well as about 500 local residents.
Speaking at the gathering, KNU Chairman Saw Mutu Sae Poe expressed his gratitude to The Nippon Foundation and the Japanese government for their assistance. He said Myanmar used to be the richest country in Southeast Asia, but has now become the poorest due to decades of conflict, expressing his determination to rebuild the country.
I said I was hopeful that as we provide humanitarian assistance to the conflict-affected areas where a ceasefire prevails, people there will feel the fruits of peace.
So far, 10 out of almost 20 ethnic armed organizations have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government of Myanmar.
The Nippon Foundation remains committed to supporting conflict-affected people throughout the country, working closely with the Government of Myanmar, state and regional governments, and respective ethnic armed organizations.
I expressed my readiness to back up 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 across the country.
With General Mya Tun Oo, Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy and Air) of the Defense Services of Myanmar.
Ms. Nang Khin Htwe Myint (left), Chief Minister of Kayin State, hands an identification card to a refugee who returned from Thailand.
General Saw Mutu Sae Poe, Chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU) and I fill in the eyes of a Japanese daruma doll, symbolizing
perseverance and good luck, praying to achieve nationwide peace through concerted efforts.
Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama.
The ceremony was attended by some 500 villagers.
We were given a friendly welcomed by young girls living in the village.
Taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with residents and dignitaries.
I was interviewed by the local media.