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“Silent Diplomacy” Toward Myanmar (1) [2021/05/26]
I have been under fire from overnight experts on Myanmar and those on social networks who ask: “Why doesn’t Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, criticize that country’s military for seizing power on February 1?“

I recall what prominent Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring (1907-2002), the first chairman of The Scandinavia-Japan Sasakawa Foundation, said, stressing the need to pursue “silent diplomacy” when confronted with a challenging mission.

Ambassador Jarring, dubbed the Silent Swede because of his talent for quiet diplomacy, served as Swedish ambassador to the United States and the Soviet Union, as well as U.N. special representative to the Middle East in an attempt to solve the Arab-Israeli deadlock. “Although he alienated journalists with his public aloofness, Jarring was known as an ideal mediator and an adept practitioner of the art of diplomatic tightrope walking,” said the Los Angeles Times.

On March 10, 1945, when I was six years old, I miraculously survived the U.S. firebombing raid on Tokyo during World War II. I took hold of the hands of my ailing mother, who had a high fever, and we somehow escaped the bombs as they rained down. The three-hour raid killed about 108,000 people and destroyed my school and countless other buildings in downtown Tokyo. I will never forget finding the bodies of our neighbors and attaching nametags to them. I felt like I had experienced a living hell. Since then, I have lived with a strong desire to realize a world where everyone can live in peace and security.

Based on that experience, I have worked relentlessly since the Myanmar military took power on February 1 to persuade its leaders to give top priority to respecting human life. Nevertheless, what has happened since is extremely deplorable and leaves me shocked and disturbed.

If that’s so, people ask, then why don’t I issue a statement condemning the military? True, I am Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar. Since I took up the post in 2013, I have worked tirelessly to mediate a ceasefire between the government, the military and about 20 ethnic armed organizations (EAO). To build up mutual trust between EAO leaders, most of whom have fled to Thailand, and other stakeholders, I have visited the country and the region about 130 times as the Japanese government’s special envoy.

Typically, I leave Narita International Airport at around midnight, arrive in Thailand or Myanmar around dawn and interact with the EAO leaders and/or Myanmar government and military leaders until around 6 p.m. I then fly back to Japan, arriving in Narita the following morning and going straight to work at The Nippon Foundation, thus skipping any hotel accommodation.

Up until the military takeover, I had helped the Myanmar government and the military sign Nationwide Ceasefire Agreements (NCA) with 10 EAOs, while negotiations with the remaining 10 EAOs had as yet failed to produce tangible progress.

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)