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Ethnic Armed Groups in Myanmar Endorse The Nippon Foundation’s Peace, Humanitarian Initiatives: Joint Statement (2) [2023年09月11日(Mon)]
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The Nippon Foundation distributes rice and other humanitarian assistance to families in Myeikwa village in Chin State in western Myanmar on June 23-27, 2023. The families returned from India where they had fled due to armed conflict in their home state.


Aside from the assistance The Nippon Foundation has provided in areas of Myanmar controlled by seven ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), namely in Kachin, Karen, Mon and Shan states, I would like to report to those who made donations to The Nippon Foundation that we have also provided humanitarian assistance to create stable living conditions for about 373 displaced people from 92 households who were returning to Chin State from India where they had fled to escape armed conflict.

As part of the assistance, though small in scale, in late July we completed and repaired 50 houses and provided families with rice, oil, salt, beans and canned foods as well as daily necessities such as detergent, toothbrushes, towels and underwear.

Transporting and delivering these supplies by truck, boat and on foot proved a real challenge.

There are hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Myanmar and there is a limit to what the foundation can do in distributing humanitarian assistance in the conflict-stricken nation.

But the foundation’s staff based in the country, while mindful of their own safety, are working with a strong sense of mission in the face of increasing challenges posed by the serious food shortages in EAO-controlled areas and the political crisis in the wake of the military takeover in February 2021.

In Bangladesh, more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees−or even as many as 1 million, according to some experts−from the western Myanmar state of Rakhine are taking refuge at the Cox’s Bazar camp.

In late June this year, The Nippon Foundation, collaborating with BRAC, an NGO based in the capital of Dhaka, completed building 203 two-story prefabricated movable steel structures with restrooms at the camp to be used as for schooling and vocational training. The 230 million yen (about $1.58 million) project ensures learning opportunities for 16,000 children a year.

It took three years to complete the structures after I decided to launch the project following my visit to the Cox’s Bazar camp in 2019 as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and Chairman of The Nippon Foundation. I found the situation there to be much more serious than I had thought−worse, in fact, than any other refugee camp I have visited, including those in Jordan (home to Syrian refugees), Sri Lanka and East Timor.

The Bangladeshi government had been quite reluctant to approve construction of buildings at the camp by international organizations and western countries for fear of making the refugee situation there permanent.

But in the end it went along with our project, which envisaged constructing movable steel structures designed for temporary use by refugees. I sincerely hope that the displaced children will benefit from these facilities and be able to continue their studies if and when they ever return to Myanmar.

(End)


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Humanitarian aid provided by The Nippon Foundation being delivered by  truck to refugees returning from India to Myeikwa village in Chin State in western Myanmar on June 23-27, 2023.


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Aid being transported by boat to returning displaced persons in the western Myanmar state of Chin.


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A fleet of boats carrying aid to be distributed in Chin State.


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A house repaired as part of The Nippon Foundation’s humanitarian assistance to people in Chin State in western Myanmar following their return from India, where they had fled to escape the armed conflict at home.


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One of some 200 two-story prefabricated steel structures The Nippon Foundation completed in June 2023 at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh where more than 700,000 Muslims are taking refuge after fleeing the conflict-stricken western Myanmar state of Rakhine. The structures will be used as learning centers for 160,000 refugee children and vocational trainees.


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Inside a classroom where classes were given in English and Burmese on the assumption that they will return to the home country in the future.


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Exchanging views with refugee parents on their children’s education at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
Ethnic Armed Groups in Myanmar Endorse The Nippon Foundation’s Peace, Humanitarian Initiatives: Joint Statement (1) [2023年09月08日(Fri)]
The Nippon Foundation has provided 64,000 bags of rice for distribution in areas controlled by seven ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in Myanmar that are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) over the past year, according to a statement issued by the NCA signatory Ethnic Armed Resistance Organizations (NCA-S EAO) in early July.

The statement as reported by media outlets in Myanmar also said the foundation will continue to distribute rice to EAOs in those areas during the 2023-24 fiscal year.

“We fully support The Nippon Foundation and its chairman (Yohei) Sasakawa in the interest of ethnic people suffering from armed conflicts, and we here pledge to cooperate with him,” the EAOs statement said.

In addition, the media outlets reported that the NCA-S EAOs “expressed their condemnation towards some so-called activists targeting Yohei Sasakawa and The Nippon Foundation, who are persistently engaged in providing aid to ethnic war refugees, noting that these efforts were initiated during previous governments.”

Politician U Pe Than was quoted by the Development Media Group (MDG) based in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine as saying: “The Nippon Foundation is an intermediary between the junta and EAOs. I think it has provided food supplies as a way of showing support for the peace process between the regime and the seven EAOs.”

The EAOs said the foundation has provided humanitarian assistance to the ethnic communities in the conflict-stricken nation for decades by undertaking new town projects, constructing hospitals and classrooms in those regions.

Since I took up the post of Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar in 2013, I have worked tirelessly to mediate a ceasefire between the government, the military and about 20 EAOs, visiting the country and the region about 130 times.

Up until the military takeover in February 2021, I had helped the Myanmar government and the military sign NCAs with 10 EAOs, while negotiations with the remaining 10 EAOs had as yet failed to produce tangible progress.

The Myanmar media reports said six EAOs, the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army−Peace Council (KNU/KNLA-PC), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLO) and New Mon State Party (NMSP), have collectively signed the statement of the NCA-S EAOs.

“Given our longstanding collaboration with The Nippon Foundation, we commonly refer to the statement as representing all seven NCA-S EAOs, even though only six EAOs have officially signed it due to the pending decision of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). It remains uncertain (as of July 5 when the statement was issued) whether the RCSS will join us later or release a separate statement,” said Colonel Khun Okkar, a spokesman for the group.

Speaking to Karen News, Colonel Saw Sein Win, the adjutant general of DKBA, emphasized the urgent necessity of aid for the displaced individuals who have been forced to leave their homes in Karen State due to the ongoing conflict, highlighting the significant challenges they face in their daily lives.

“I firmly believe that engaging in humanitarian work is a crucial step towards achieving stability and peace within our nation. It is imperative that we intensify our efforts to support such initiatives and provide assistance to our communities,” he said.

(To be continued)
read more...
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:47 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
“Humanitarian Ceasefire” Between Myanmar Military and Ethnic Armed Organization Well Observed in Rakhine State [2023年03月06日(Mon)]
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Visiting five IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine on February 4, 2023. I personally donated one blanket per IDP to help them beat the cold weather this season in some parts of Myanmar.


I visited the western Myanmar state of Rakhine early in February in my capacity as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and chairman of The Nippon Foundation.

The aim was to see firsthand whether the ceasefire on humanitarian grounds between the military and the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed organization (EAO) based in the state, is observed as agreed upon between them.

I brokered the ceasefire in November 2022 when I talked with senior leaders of both sides, ending months of intense fighting between them. The agreement is called a “humanitarian ceasefire” as it provides that it will remain in effect as long as The Nippon Foundation and international aid organizations provide people in the state with humanitarian assistance, such as food, medicine and daily necessities as well as in the form of building schools, clinics and infrastructure.

After flying from Yangon to the state capital of Sittwe early on the morning of February 4, I took a helicopter to the township of Mrauk-U. From there, I visited four nearby camps where internally displaced persons (IDPs) are sheltering in Tein Nyo, Kyaukrizkay, Myo Oo Gaung and Myio Tei and personally donated one blanket per IDP to help them beat the cold weather this season in some parts of the Southeast Asian country. After coming back to Sittwe, I went to an IDP camp in a township of Basara.

While in Rakhine State, I talked with a number of IDPs as well as some political and social leaders. After coming back to Yangon, I had a breakfast meeting with some stakeholders and an online session with AA leaders.

Before returning to Japan, I made an overnight stay in Bangkok where I spent a whole day being interviewed by 11 Japanese and international media outlets about my visit to Rakhine State.

In the interviews, I stated that things are going unexpectedly well under the ceasefire agreement, noting that virtually no incidents have been reported between the two parties to the agreement since they agreed to the ceasefire accord. I have been informed that the military and the AA have established a system to closely share information and that many problems have been solved through talks.

The foundation plans to provide IDPs in the state with a total of 23,000 blankets by the end of March. It is also committed to building schools, clinics and housing for returnees to resettle and has already called on the military and the AA to discuss when and where such facilities should be built.

I said in the media interviews that we would like to use the ceasefire process in Rakhine State as a model for other conflict areas in Myanmar where the military and EAOs are still fighting each other.

On February 1, the military regime announced the extension of the state of emergency, effectively pushing back elections it pledged to hold by August this year.

“If this continues, it could prolong the military rule, so elections should be held no matter what,” I said.

I would also like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to establish working-level contacts with Myanmar’s military regime, suggesting it set up an office in Myanmar as the first step.

"Criticizing from afar will not solve the problems," I said, expressing my hope that current ASEAN chair Indonesia will take the lead in addressing the impasse.


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I visited a total of five IDP (Internally Displaced Person) camps in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine on February 4, 2023.


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I was heartened to see the smiles of children living in this IDP camp.


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Talking with a housewife living in an IDP camp.


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Being briefed on the situation of Muslims living in IDP camps in Rakhine State.

read more...
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 15:43 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
Brokering “Humanitarian Ceasefire” Between Myanmar Military and Ethnic Arakan Army [2022年12月09日(Fri)]
The Nippon Foundation has announced a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed organization (EAO) in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine, ending months of intense fighting between them.

I brokered the ceasefire when I visited the Southeast Asian country between November 25 and 27 and talked with senior leaders of both the Myanmar military and the AA in my capacity as Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar and chairman of the foundation.

I flew there in response to the urgent request from both sides for mediating a truce between them in strict secrecy, reflecting their concern about the growing number of internally displaced persons due to the conflict and also because the harvest season was approaching.

“This is not a military or political agreement, but rather a humanitarian ceasefire, and is very significant because local residents will directly benefit from the fruits of peace,” I said in a statement issued by the foundation on November 29. I plan to visit Rakhine State hopefully before the end of the year to work out further details.

Since the fierce fighting between the military and the AA resumed last July after a two-year lull, junta forces have blocked land and water transport routes, as well as communications in and out of the state, leading to serious shortages of food and medicine as well as hampering access to healthcare services for more than 2 million local residents.

A spokesman for the AA said: “Our farmers have faced the most adverse impacts. The fighting had prevented them from harvesting their rice. The main task for us right now is to get food and medicine and we urgently need to harvest the rice on time.”

There is no time frame for the humanitarian ceasefire as the agreement provides that it will remain in effect as long as the foundation and international aid organizations provide people in the state with humanitarian assistance, such as food and medicine but also in the form of building schools, clinics and infrastructure.

This is the second time that I have brokered ceasefire between the army and the AA. At the time of Myanmar’s general election in November 2020, I visited the country as head of a Japanese government election observer team. Voting was postponed in Rakhine State, however, because of instability in the area where conflict between the Myanmar military and the AA was ongoing.

Expressing concern that representatives from Rakhine would not be able to participate in parliament, I engaged in vigorous dialogue that resulted in a ceasefire to allow a special election to be held in Rakhine. This led to peace in one of the areas of Myanmar that had seen the most intense conflict. Nevertheless, fighting between the army and the AA resumed this summer, once again forcing local residents to flee.  

I hope the results of this dialogue between the military and the AA will spread and bring peace to all of Myanmar, which has experienced continued conflict for many decades. I will continue to work toward that goal as a representative of the Japanese government.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:53 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
Article Delves into the “Sasakawa Way to Peacebuilding in Myanmar” [2022年10月24日(Mon)]
I would like to share with you an article that provides insights into the roles The Nippon Foundation (TNF) and I played in the peacebuilding process in Myanmar before the military takeover in February 2021.

“The Sasakawa Way to Peacebuilding in Myanmar: Sustained Incremental Trust Establishment and Support (SITES)” was authored by Dr. Desmond Molloy, who is currently Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Pannasastra University in Cambodia.

The article begins by outlining our approach to providing humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, based on “a hybrid Asian approach” designed to overcome the regime’s “cultural and value-based resistance to applying Western Development Theory in the provision of support.”

It notes how TNF’s relationship with Myanmar dates back to 1976, starting with support for eliminating leprosy and since extending to some 90 projects for development and humanitarian assistance.

The article goes on to describe how in 2012 I was approached by then President Thein Sein of the Transitional Government who requested that I act “at a personal level in encouraging the anti-government ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in peripheral states to engage in the newly launched Myanmar Peace Process, which was to be established initially to achieve a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).” Concurrently, I was appointed as the Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation of Myanmar.

Dr. Molloy writes: “Sasakawa and TNF were conscious of historical local resistance to the application of Western Development Theory … and strove for a more culturally and conflict-sensitive approach to the complex environment in Myanmar, drawing on Japan’s historical relationship and adopting a more pragmatic ‘Asian style’ while listening carefully to the well-informed local advice from both the Myanmar Peace Commission (MPC), a government-appointed commission created to direct the peace process, and the leadership of the various EAOs.”

As Dr. Molloy notes, I travelled to meetings with government principals, the MPC, and ethnic armed leadership either in Myanmar or in Thailand altogether 107 times between 2012 and mid-January 2020.

He quotes me as saying: “Undoing the tangled threads requires repeated dialogue and patience. While this seems like a long route, it is the shortest.”

The term the TNF team coined to describe my “hybrid and innovative approach to conflict management/peacebuilding was “Sustained Incremental Trust Establishment and Support” (SITES).”

“SITES in Myanmar was context specific, focusing on the mindset of attuned conflict and cultural sensitivity, respect, and the focus on developing trust through personal relationships amongst principals, with non-intrusive, steady, and incremental support for a national peace process that was the foundation of the approach,” Dr. Molloy notes.

So far, 10 out of almost 20 EAOs have signed the NCA.

The article concludes: “Yohei Sasakawa and TNF maintained their efforts right up to the shocking military coup of 1st February 2021 that brought the progress of Myanmar peace to a crashing halt and hiatus in progress towards federal democracy. Hoping that the current dark period in Myanmar’s progress can end rapidly and the path towards democracy be regained, marshalling the lessons learned, Yohei Sasakawa and TNF remain ready to reapply SITES to a new context for the benefit of the people of Myanmar.”

Before becoming Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Pannasastra University, Dr. Molloy, who is from Ireland, spent a decade serving as Chief of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) for various UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. He was also Senior Program Director for the TNF Myanmar Liaison Office from 2013 to 2019.

The article was carried by the June 2022 issue of the Mekong Connect, jointly published by the Asian Vision Institute (AVI), an independent think tank based in Phnom Penh, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Cambodia Office. It can be seen here.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:26 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation Committed to Delivering Food Aid to IDPs in Myanmar [2022年10月14日(Fri)]
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The Nippon Foundation delivers rice to IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Shan State, Myanmar, on July 27, 2022.


The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) announced on September 12 that more than 13.2 million people in Myanmar are now moderately or severely food insecure. This accounts for about one fourth of the Southeast Asian nation’s total population of about 54 million.

I am not sure what kind of survey was conducted in the conflict-stricken country to come up with this number. But considering the hardships internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially children, are facing across Myanmar, The Nippon Foundation is making its utmost efforts to provide them with humanitarian assistance.

This stems in part from my own childhood experience when I miraculously survived the U.S. firebombing raid on Tokyo on March 10, 1945, during World War II, which 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. Since then, I have lived with a strong desire to realize a world where everyone can live in peace and security, determined to do everything I can to provide food and other humanitarian assistance to those in need, especially children, in conflict areas.

Under the present circumstances, distribution of food assistance in Myanmar is far more challenging than one might think. But the foundation’s staff based in that country, while keeping an eye on their own safety, are working with a strong sense of mission in the face of increasing challenges due to soaring food prices and the political crisis in the wake of the military takeover in February 2021.

Regarding the humanitarian assistance that the Japanese government commissioned The Nippon Foundation to provide, we are working closely with the Red Cross to try to deliver it to IDPs as quickly and effectively as we can.

Under a project launched in March 2022, the foundation has so far managed to deliver rice to 25,040 IDPs in areas controlled by seven ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and is working hard to reach more IDPs in these areas.

With the memories of my boyhood in my heart, I am determined, together with our staff in Myanmar, to continue our activities to deliver food aid under challenging conditions so that no child in the country goes to sleep hungry.

The Nippon Foundation’s activities in Myanmar began in 1976 with medical support for persons affected by leprosy, and over the years since then we have engaged in roughly 90 projects in the country. Since I was appointed Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar in February 2013, I have travelled to meetings with the government, the military and EAOs either in Myanmar or neighboring Thailand some 130 times with the aim of achieving a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). So far, 10 out of almost 20 EAOs have signed the NCA, but my mediation efforts have stalled following the military takeover.


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The Nippon Foundation delivers rice to IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Shan State, Myanmar, on July 30, 2022.


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The Nippon Foundation delivers rice to IDPs in Shan State, Myanmar, on August 15, 2022.


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IDPs in Shan State, Myanmar, with rice provided by The Nippon Foundation on August 15, 2022.


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Preparing to distribute rice provided by The Nippon Foundation to IDPs in Kayin State, Myanmar, on August 9, 2022.


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Rice provided by The Nippon Foundation to IDPs being distributed in Kayin State, Myanmar, on August 12, 2022.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:54 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation Donates 2 Million Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine to Myanmar [2022年01月28日(Fri)]
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1 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin novel coronavirus vaccine donated by The Nippon Foundation arrive at Yangon International Airport on January 9, 2022.


The Nippon Foundation has donated 2 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin vaccine to Myanmar to help it fight the novel coronavirus.

At a ceremony at Yangon International Airport on January 9, Mr. Yuji Mori, executive director of the foundation, handed over 1 million doses of Covaxin to Dr. Maung Maung Myint, president of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, in the presence of Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama.

This was Japan’s first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine to Myanmar, according to the foundation. The remaining 1 million doses were delivered on January 23.   

During a visit I made to Myanmar in November 2021, I talked with various stakeholders about how best the foundation can help the country with humanitarian assistance, especially in their fight against the novel coronavirus. I also visited IDP (internally displaced person) camps in the western state of Arakan for a first-hand look at the lives of IDPs and how they are coping amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What I learned through these meetings was that Myanmar was facing acute shortages of COVID-19 vaccine across the nation and that people were disappointed by Japan’s failure thus far to provide vaccines to their country even though it has given them to other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). I found it unfortunate because people in Myanmar have a history of being quite friendly toward Japan.

This prompted the foundation to provide Myanmar with the Indian-made Covaxin vaccine, which is considered to be of high-quality and is accessible in large volume. I sincerely hope the vaccine will be administered to those who have yet to get their shots, especially IDPs.

Looking back, the foundation struggled hard to secure and deliver the Covaxin to Myanmar as our negotiations with the Indian vaccine manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, got off to a rocky start. Normally, governments negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies over large-scale vaccine purchases−for example, then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla in April 2021 to expedite vaccine deliveries to Japan−and not private entities such as The Nippon Foundation, so this was something different.

Even after we agreed on the date for delivery, the company refused to transport the vaccine to Myanmar, insisting on handing over the order at their factory in India. We then managed to find a transport company that delivered the shipment from India to Myanmar via Dubai.

As of time of writing, there have been over 534,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Myanmar and over 19,000 deaths, according to the WHO. With three or four Japanese among those reportedly dying of the disease, there had been widespread anxiety in the Japanese community over the lack of vaccine availability, so I am pleased to note that the Myanmar Red Cross Society readily accepted our request for Japanese residents of Myanmar to receive the Covaxin.

Despite the ongoing political and social uncertainties in the country, we are determined to support the increasing number of IDPs and others in need of relief by providing food, medical and other humanitarian assistance with the help of the hardworking staff of our Yangon office.


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At a handover ceremony at Yangon International Airport on January 9, 2022, Dr. Maung Maung Myint (left), president of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, Mr. Yuji Mori (center), executive director of The Nippon Foundation, and Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama (right).


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The second batch of the Indian-made Covaxin novel coronavirus vaccine donated by The Nippon Foundation arrives at Yangon International Airport on January 23, 2022.


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A total of 2 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin vaccine donated by The Nippon Foundation were delivered to the Myanmar Red Cross Society on January 9 and 23, 2022.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:59 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
Ousted Myanmar Leader Suu Kyi’s Japanese Sword Restored, Ready to be Returned [2021年11月26日(Fri)]
A group of craftspeople in the western Japanese prefecture of Okayama has finished restoring a Japanese sword owned by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was taken into custody when Myanmar’s military seized power from her civilian government on February 1.

The Nippon Foundation, which entrusted the group with the task on her behalf, will keep the sword until it becomes possible to return it to her.

Before the takeover, Ms. Suu Kyi approached Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama, asking for help in getting the badly rusted sword refurbished. The envoy then asked The Nippon Foundation to help.

Responding to Ms. Suu Kyi’s request, the foundation consulted the city government of Setouchi in Okayama Prefecture, an area famed for its sword craftsmanship, and arranged for a workshop in the Bizen Osafune Sword Museum in the city to handle the restoration work.

The blade was created by Mr. Sadatsugu Takahashi (1902-1968), a master swordsmith of Okayama Prefecture, who was designated by the Japanese government as a holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property known as a “Living National Treasure.”

In 1942, during World War II, it was donated by a major Japanese national daily, the Asahi Shimbun, to Imperial Japanese Army Lieutenant General Shojiro Iida, who had been appointed commander of Japanese forces that occupied the country then known as Burma.

The sword subsequently changed hands to General Aung San, who was a hero of the country’s independence movement−first against British rule and later Japanese occupation. He was Ms. Suu Kyi’s father.

Before he was assassinated in 1947, the general told his daughter it was “a gift from a Japanese officer.” The sword was believed ever since to have been in Ms. Suu Kyi’s possession as a treasure from Japan. Over the years, however, the sword’s condition had deteriorated considerably, probably due to the conditions under which it was stored.

It took the Okayama craftsmen about a year to finish repairing the sword and they did an excellent job. Now that it has been handed it back to the foundation, I made it known at a press conference in Yangon on November 18 during a private visit to Myanmar that we will keep the sword for the time being, ready to return it to Ms. Suu Kyi whenever it becomes possible.

An artisan who worked on the project said he wished the sword will “serve as a bridge between Japan and Myanmar.” I sincerely hope that peace returns to the Southeast Asian country at an early date so we can give the sword back to Ms. Suu Kyi.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:46 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
“Silent Diplomacy” toward Myanmar (2) [2021年05月27日(Thu)]
In Myanmar, the government and the military have been engaged in fighting Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) on and off for more than seven decades. There are many conflicts around the world, but I don’t know of any other nation where the fighting has continued for as long as in Myanmar.

The Japanese government appointed me, a civilian, as its Special Envoy for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, in recognition of years of my humanitarian and other activities in the Southeast Asian country. For example, The Nippon Foundation has built hundreds of schools mainly for children of ethnic minorities, helped the nation in its fight against leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, since the 1970s, and provided vocational training, hygiene guidance and food assistance. The position of special envoy has no fixed term.

With about 135 ethnic groups, Myanmar is not a straightforward “country” in the way that people in Japan and other nations might think. EAOs have undergone repeated alignment and realignment. Buddhist monks have a strong say on politics, while peoples in Karen and Kachin states are mostly Christians. Besides, there are Muslims in some parts of the country as well.

My job is to interact and listen to each one of these groups to encourage them to sit down at the negotiating table with the government and the military. Above all, it is to win the trust of all those stakeholders.  

In a country such as Myanmar where people value saving face, I make a point of being extra careful about what I say as my remarks receive a lot of attention.

I am determined to keep working to the best of my ability to complete my mission as the Special Envoy of the Government of Japan in order to attain the ultimate goal of creating a democratic Federal Republic that will emerge in the future for national reconciliation and Union peace. This is exactly what General Aung San, father of deposed State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, dreamed of.

Whatever criticisms and smears I might face, I will keep working every day in an effort to help resolve the current situation in which Myanmar finds itself. To complete my mission, I will stick firmly to “silent diplomacy.”

In 2020, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi commissioned The Nippon Foundation to help restore a Japanese sword her father had been presented with by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war, before he became the founding father of the modern-day Myanmar. There has been steady progress in the restoration work being undertaken by sword-polishers in Okayama Prefecture, western Japan. I believe a time will come when I can return her father’s sword to her in person.

Numerous news outlets, both foreign and domestic, have asked to interview me on Myanmar, but I have turned all of them down. For this, I would like to offer my sincere apologies.

If you are interested, please read the following:

(1)   Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu’s statement on ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting issued on April 27, 2021:
ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting (Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs MOTEGI Toshimitsu) | Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (mofa.go.jp)

(2)   An AP story on the May 14 release of a Japanese journalist who was detained in Myanmar:
https://apnews.com/article/myanmar-tokyo-japan-journalists-7e90e258489afe0609798a621b5b776d

(3)   A report titled “From Elections to Ceasefire in Myanmar’s Rakhine State” published on December 23, 2020, by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, focusing on my activities in the wake of the country’s general elections in November.
https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-east-asia/myanmar/b164-elections-ceasefire-myanmars-rakhine-state
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
“Silent Diplomacy” Toward Myanmar (1) [2021年05月26日(Wed)]
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)
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