The Nippon Foundation, Japanese Gov’t to support return of IDPs in N. Myanmar [2020年01月13日（Mon）]
With Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson (center), President of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), and Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama (right) who joined me at a press conference in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, Myanmar, on December 21, 2019.I visited Myanmar in late December last year to announce that The Nippon Foundation and the Japanese government will support the return and resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kachin State in the north of the country.I made the announcement as Chairman of The Nippon Foundation and Special Envoy of the Japanese Government for National Reconciliation in Myanmar at a press conference in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, on December 21. Joining me were Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama and Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson, President of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC).Although conflicts are still occurring in some parts of northeast Myanmar with no ceasefire agreements reached, the Myanmar government, its military and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in northern Kachin State are making progress in their discussions on a ceasefire and the returns of IDPs. Under the circumstances, The Nippon Foundation and the Japanese government have accepted KBC’s request for building 500 houses to resettle about 3,000 IDPs in Kachin State as well as providing hygiene guidance, lifestyle consultation, and agricultural training and other income-generation support. I hope this will help those IDPs return home permanently and achieve stability in their lives. At the press conference, I stated that we had KBC look into what humanitarian assistance needs to be given and what the first step should be and, based on that, The Nippon Foundation and the Japanese government agreed to offer support.KBC’s Rev. Dr. Samson said that many IDPs in Kachin State are unable to return home by themselves and need some kind of help. Starting the program for the return of IDPs with assistance from the Japanese government and The Nippon Foundation is a very important first step toward a long-term settlement of the conflict, he added. It is my sincere hope that our assistance contributes to improving the humanitarian situation in Kachin State and reaching a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible, and that the Myanmar government, the military and ethnic armed organizations continue to make progress toward achieving national reconciliation eventually.
A number of journalists and camera crews covered the press conference.
Taking a photo with participants in the press conference and Kachin locals. Meeting with Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson, President of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), who is on the far right.Visiting houses built with the support from The Nippon Foundation. In the house I visited, I enjoy sewing. With 12 grandchildren, I am good at holding a baby.With beautiful ladies of a village. Visiting construction site of KBC’s vocational training center, supported by the Japanese government.
1,650 Houses Completed for Conflict-Affected People in Myanmar [2019年12月05日（Thu）]
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.
Japan Tells Myanmar’s Military Chief It Supports Peace Process [2019年10月16日（Wed）]
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.
We Warmly Welcome Senior Military Officers from Myanmar on Japan Visit [2019年09月20日（Fri）]
Speaking at the reception to welcome senior military officers from Myanmar at Hotel New Otani in Tokyo on August 23, 2019.
We wholeheartedly welcomed 10 senior military officers from Myanmar who visited Japan from August 23 to September 3 as part of The Nippon Foundation’s Japan-Myanmar Military Officers Exchange Program.
At a reception held at Hotel New Otani in Tokyo on August 23, I told some 60 attendants from both countries that The Nippon Foundation has been engaged in mediating between the Myanmar government and armed ethnic minority groups, who have been feuding for the past seven decades.
I said that the foundation has so far arranged a total of 95 meetings with the Myanmar military and other stakeholders, expressing my hope that these efforts will be a positive step toward eventually achieving national reconciliation.
In response, the head of the Myanmar delegation, Lieutenant General Than Tun Oo, commander of No. 6 Bureau of Special Operations, Myanmar Defence Services, expressed his country’s gratitude for the foundation’s wholeheartedpeace efforts, adding that delegation members will make the best use of what they learn from the visit.
I was speaking in my capacity as the chairman of The Nippon Foundation and the special envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar.
Earlier in that day, the Myanmar delegation paid a courtesy call on then Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya, who was later succeeded by Taro Kono, former foreign minister, in the Cabinet reshuffle on September 11.
This was the sixth group of senior military officers from Myanmar to visit Japan under theprogram that The Nippon Foundation launched in 2014 in cooperation with the Japanese Defense Ministry. The aim is to promote mutual trust between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and Myanmar’s military and familiarize the latter with the role of the military under a civilian government.
During the 12-day visit, the delegation traveled to Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, to observe the Fuji Firepower Review 2019 at the East Fuji Maneuver Area and tour the Air SDF’s Hamamatsu Air Base and to Hiroshima Prefecture, western Japan, to tour the Ground SDF’s Camp Kaitaichi and the Maritime SDF’S Kure and Etajima naval bases.
They also made a trip to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and had free time to interact with Japanese society during their stay.
I might add that the senior Myanmar officers took theopportunity to visit a monument in Hamamatsu commemorating Japan-Myanmar relations. This is where the young Aung San, father of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, lived in exile in 1940 in his twenties before he became the founding father of modern-day Myanmar. I believe the visit symbolized the decades of friendship and mutual trust between the peoples of our two countries.
Group photo with the Myanmar military delegation in Tokyo on August 23, 2019
Meeting with Myanmar’s Border Affairs Minister [2019年04月10日（Wed）]
At my recent meeting with Myanmar’s Union Minister for Border Affairs Lieutenant-General Ye Aung in Tokyo, I stressed the importance of effectively developing human resources in his country’s border areas to improve the lives of ethnic minorities living there, which would in turn help support the peace process.
I also told him I was hopeful that the Minister would take a good look at educational and vocational training facilities while in Japan so that Myanmar could upgrade such facilities for youths from ethnic minorities in the border areas.
I was meeting the Minister in my capacity as the Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and the Japanese Government’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Welfare of the National Races in Myanmar.
Union Minister Ye Aung visited Japan from March 29 to April 2 at the invitation of The Nippon Foundation. After our meeting, he also visited the National Institute of Technology, Nagaoka College, and International University of Japan (IUJ) both in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast as well as Kyoto and Nara in western Japan.
Meeting with Lt-Gen. Ye Aung, Myanmar’s Minister for Border Affairs
(March 29, 2019, Tokyo)
Fact-finding visit to Myanmar’s Rakhine State [2019年04月03日（Wed）]
During my recent visit to Myanmar from March 21 to 27 as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, I tried to figure out firsthand what’s going on in Rakhine State from where hundreds of thousands of people have fled into neighboring Bangladesh.
After arriving in the state capital of Sittwe, I first held talks with senior officials and political leaders to discuss the situation in the state.
I also toured a transit camp near Maungdaw close to the border where people can stay temporarily after returning from Bangladesh and two IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in the suburbs of Sittwe. In addition, I visited a village where people of three religions − Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism − are living together and getting along well.
I spent a lot of time listening to as many people as possible talking about their lives in the camps.
I then flew to the Union capital of Nay Pyi Taw to exchange views with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other top officials on Japan’s support for Rakhine State and Myanmar’s peace and national reconciliation process based on the observations I made during my fact-finding trip.
During my previous trip to the region in February, which also brought me to Bangladesh in addition to Myanmar, I held talks with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and visited the Cox’s Bazar camp to talk with refugees living there. These trips have given me opportunities to get perspectives on the Rakhine State issue from both sides of the border.
Town meeting with people living in the Kyein Ni Pyin IDP camp (March 24, 2019)