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Yohei Sasakawa
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High-Level Meetings with the President and Cabinet Members-Trip to Myanmar (6)- [2012年01月30日(Mon)]

Chairman Sasakawa together with several Sasakawa Fellows from the World Maritime University.

High-Level Meetings with the President and Cabinet Members
Trip to Myanmar (6)

During my visit to Nay Pyi Daw, I met with President Thein Sein and also had talks with ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party Secretary-General Htay Oo and five central executive committee members. I also had the chance to meet Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to discuss assistance for human resource programs in the lead up to Myanmar’s chairing of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in 2014.

A number of other government officials took the time to meet me during the visit to talk about a variety of issues. For instance, I met Aung Kyi, who serves as both the Minister of Labor and Minister of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement, and discussed ways people with disabilities can be organized and the holding of the International Festival of Inclusive Arts in Myanmar. With Minister of Border Affairs Thein Htay, I had a conversation about the construction of elementary schools in border areas. And with Kyaw Myint, a member of the USDP Central Executive Committee and the former Minister of Health, I had a discussion regarding programs to distribute traditional medical supplies.

The visit to Nay Pyi Daw also gave me the opportunity to make the acquaintance of Minister of Industry Soe Thein and Minister of Education Mya Aye, who were present at my talks with President Thein Sein. On top of those meetings, I was able to renew my acquaintance with Yangon mayor Hla Myint, and to meet Aung San Suu Kyi (as I related in my December 27 and 28, 2011, blog entries).

At the suggestion of Shūichi Ōno, who is Executive Director in charge of international cooperation projects at the Nippon Foundation, a gathering was held during my visit to Nay Pyi Daw to bring together, for the first occasion in a long time, recipients of scholarships from the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Peace Foundation, as well as partners whom we have worked with to conduct various projects in the country.

In total, there were around a hundred people in attendance, including scholarship recipients at the United Nations University for Peace and the World Maritime University, individuals with physical disabilities, and those who have been involved in our school construction, distribution of traditional medicines, civil servant training, and empowerment of people affected by leprosy . It was a festive occasion that brought together old acquaintances and set the stage for future collaboration and network building.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Than Shwe’s Resignation and the Relocation of the Capital-Visit to Myanmar (5)- [2012年01月20日(Fri)]

General Than Shwe, dressed in a traditional ethnic costume, with Sasakawa Yōhei.

Than Shwe’s Resignation and the Relocation of the Capital
Visit to Myanmar (5)

Some have claimed that the capital of Myanmar was moved from Yangon to Nay Pyi Daw, in the jungle, as a result of advice a fortune-teller gave to Than Shwe, the senior general of the junta. The real story is somewhat different, however.

Nay Pyi Daw is located near Pyinmana, which was home to the struggle to oppose British colonial rule. It was also the birthplace of the army. The new city is surrounded by mountains and far from the ocean. The decision to relocate was based on strategic considerations of security and a desire to close the books on Yangon, the capital under British rule, and open a new page in the country’s history.


Nay Pyi Daw, the new capital, was built on cleared jungle land.

Myanmar is a Buddhist country, and it is not uncommon for political leaders to seek the counsel of monks who have undergone severe ascetic training. When Than Shwe made Nay Pyi Daw the capital, it was not in blind adherence to the advice of a Buddhist monk or fortune-teller, however. He gave a detailed explanation of why a new capital needed to be built and went ahead with the plans after obtaining the consent of the monk he consulted with.

Than Shwe’s resignation is, however, remarkable. The silence of the media on the resignation of a man who was denigrated by the West for years as the dictator at the helm of a military government is hard to understand. Is it prudence on their part? Or could it be they assume Than Shwe continues to wield behind-the-scenes power, with President Thein Sein as a mere puppet? Yangon pundits for their part assert Than Shwe’s resignation is indisputable and that the reason he has not appeared in public is because he is now wheelchair bound or has entered a Buddhist monastery. The truth of the matter is we simply don’t know. Than Shwe has not made a single public appearance since the constitution was amended and national elections were held.

In April 2003, former Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori joined my talks with Than Shwe aimed at rebuilding bilateral ties. Meetings of this sort generally last 30 or 40 minutes, but ours was followed by a dinner party and continued for three and a half hours. Though neither of us brought up the topic of military rule and the democratic transfer of power, Than Shwe nonetheless commented: “I personally do not think military rule is good. However, there are still a large number of armed insurgencies by ethnic minorities in remote regions, and until the situation is stabilized, military rule must be maintained. If it isn’t, Myanmar will be another Balkan Peninsula.” His remark gave me faint hope that Myanmar would set down the road to democracy once domestic stability was achieved. As it turned out, however, a different diplomatic path was chosen, with the enlightened politician Khin Nyunt ousted from his office as prime minister and bilateral ties with China strengthened in the aim of receiving more aid.

Than Shwe endured the harsh criticism from the West while undertaking preparations for a transition to democracy, which included revising the constitution, holding national elections, and laying the groundwork for the introduction of democratic policies. He also, of his own accord, put an end to military rule. The fact that Than Shwe has not been evaluated in an impartial manner seems to suggest that people these days have very short memories.

It is almost unheard of for a dictator to willingly step down. But Than Shwe did just that, against the predictions of the Western media. I, for one, feel that in the case of his rule the merits balanced out the demerits, and that he should be given credit for what he accomplished.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Prime Minister Noda’s “Never Give Up” Gaffe [2012年01月16日(Mon)]
Prime Minister Noda’s “Never Give Up” Gaffe

I applaud the determination expressed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in his New Year’s press conference on January 4, 2012, to carry out a comprehensive reform of the social security and taxation systems in response to Japan’s graying population and declining birthrate. However, I must reiterate my view, set down in the daily Sankei Shimbun in April and in December 2010 , that unless the government introduces legislation to reduce the number of seats in the upper and lower houses of the Diet and curb government spending through such measures as reducing the salaries and pensions of civil servants, it will be difficult to gain the nation’s approval for a tax increase.

The major dailies had the following to say about the prime minister’s press conference.

“Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda repeated the word ‘never’ four times and followed it with ‘give up,’ quoting former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965), who led his country through the crisis of World War II, thus laying bare his own resolve. Noda also argued cogently, ‘I shall never give up on a just cause, and I firmly believe change is possible if the reasons for an action are fully explained.” (Mainichi Shimbun, January 7 morning edition)

“Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called for a dialogue between the ruling and opposition parties on the comprehensive reform of the social security and tax systems, including an increase in the consumption tax. He also said he would push for the early passage of a bill to reduce the number of upper house and lower house Diet seats at the upcoming ordinary session of the Diet to convene this month. Quoting former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who led the country during World War II, Noda said he would ‘never, never, never, never give up’ and expressed his resolve to see his plan implemented.” (Nihon Keizai Shimbun, January 5 morning edition)

“While he replied to questions in a monotone voice, he stressed that a tax increase cannot be put off any longer. In the end, Noda quoted the following words of Winston Churchill that he learned in high school: ‘Never, never, never, never give up.’” [Asahi Shimbun, January 5 morning edition; reprinted from the English-language Asahi Shimbun)

“During World War II, Churchill led Britain in the fight against Nazi Germany under Hitler’s rule, and at the height of the ‘Blitz’ bombings by Germany of London, he made speeches over the radio and in Parliament to galvanize the nation. Ultimately, the country was victorious. ‘Never give up’ is often interpreted to mean ‘Never submit.’” (Sankei Shimbun, January 5 morning edition)

I for one was extremely interested in what views Noda, as the head of Japan, would express in his New Year’s press conference.

At a time when politicians are under public scrutiny for cursory utterances, it is imperative that at the very least, the use of language and the content of speeches made by prime ministers should be checked by administration staff and subject to a review by experts. In this case, the media also failed to double-check the accuracy of the quotation. To make matters worse, it’s questionable whether the quotation was even appropriate to the circumstances under which it was made. On both counts, Noda’s use of the quotation can only be deemed careless.

Churchill did not say “Never give up.” What he said was “Never give in.” “Give up” and “give in” are entirely different things. The daily Sankei Shimbun was correct in stating the common Japanese equivalent is “Never give in.” Unfortunately, it did not point out the mistake.

The quotation is taken from a speech Churchill made on October 29, 1941, at his alma mater, the Harrow School. The correct version is,

“… never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never−in nothing, great or small, large or petty−never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

The developments that unfolded on the world stage in the years up to and months after Churchill’s speech are as follows.

September 1939 - Germany invades Poland, whose allies, Britain and France, declare war on Germany, marking the start of World War II.
June 1940 - France surrenders to Germany.
September 1940 - Germany, Italy, and Japan form a military alliance.
June 1941 - Germany and the Soviet Union go to war.
July 1941 - US government freezes the assets of Japanese nationals living in the United States.
August 1941 - United States enforces an oil embargo on Japan.
- An economic blockade against Japan is implemented by the United States, Britain, China, and the Netherlands.
- US President Theodore Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Churchill release the “Atlantic Charter” statement.
October 1941 - Cabinet of Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro resigns en masse, replaced by the cabinet formed by Tojo Hideki.
November 1941 - Hard-line “Hull note” presented to Japan by US Secretary of State Cordell Hull
December 1941 - Japan attacks Pearl Harbor

I have tried to provide an overview of the international currents at that time. Japan was among the enemies Churchill referred to when he spoke about not giving in. Though many years have passed since then, the quotation still has no place in a speech by a Japanese prime minister. And the misquotation only makes matters worse. I cringe when I think how foreign academics and others got a good laugh at Japan’s expense so early in the New Year. Am I the only one who feels like crawling into a hole?
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:30 | URL | comment(0)
Don’t Let Japanese Agriculture Become a Boiled Frog [2012年01月14日(Sat)]

Don’t Let Japanese Agriculture Become a Boiled Frog

Starting off a blog entry with a reference to a boiled frog and Japanese agriculture is boorish and discourteous, especially to those working in the agricultural sector. Nonetheless, this is exactly what I think of when I hear of the growing concerns about the future of that sector if Japan decides to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The “boiled frog” expression is frequently used in reference to a business that fails to perceive a threat to its survival because the change has been so gradual. Like a frog in a pot of water that is slowly heated to boiling point, it takes no measures to save itself. After decades of being coddled by protectionist measures, Japanese agriculture, especially rice farming, has lost its vitality and is unaware of the danger it now is in.

An Age of Food Shortages
Global food production can no longer keep pace with rapid population growth , and food−like oil and mineral resources−is becoming a limited resource countries must scramble for. No country facing a shortage of food at home is going to sell to other countries. In Japan farmers get 341 yen for a kilogram of rice and are protected by a 778% tariff on imports. It’s unrealistic to expect that a country will sell us rice if and when we need it. We’ve got to get ourselves out of that pot of warm water and revitalize the farm sector. Food security is an urgent issue and one that requires a complete turnaround through agricultural policy reforms.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, Japan’s self-sufficiency rate is 39% on a calorie basis. The figure represents a 50% drop in 50 years. The situation is even graver when it comes to grains. Japan depends on imports for most of its wheat, soybeans, and corn, pushing down its self-sufficiency ratio to just 27% when it comes to grains. Among countries with 100 million people or more, it is way down on the bottom of the list.

The large-scale use of chemical fertilizers and introduction of hybrids enabled global grain production to outpace population growth through the mid 1980s. But since then, the global population has grown explosively and demand has outstripped supply. The shortage has been aggravated by other factors, including the growth in meat consumption in newly industrialized countries, the switch to biofuels, and abnormal climate conditions.

It takes about 11 kilograms of corn to produce one kilogram of beef, seven kilograms to produce a kilogram of pork, and four to produce a kilogram of chicken. Rising energy demand has also led the United States and Brazil to step up production of bioethanol made from corn. Their soybean fields are being converted into corn fields, a trend that bodes ill for Japan, which relies for 70% of its soybean imports from those two countries.

World grain prices have soared over the past decade. Wheat prices are up 500%, corn is up 300%, and soybeans are up 250%. In 2004, China, with a population of 1.3 billion, became a net agricultural importer. The UN World Food Programme reports that 900 million people around the world are threatened with starvation.

The Risk of Over Dependence on Imports
Given recent developments, it is clear that Japan’s heavy reliance on imports is risky. About 2.6 million people are engaged in farming in Japan, but 61% of them are 65 or older, and the ranks of retired farmers are swelling. In contrast, there were only 13,000 people aged 39 or younger who joined this declining sector in fiscal 2009. In the years to come, abandoned farmland will become an increasingly common sight.

Japan’s post WWII agricultural policies, which are rooted in the Staple Food Control Law of 1942, have been geared toward propping up rice prices and guaranteeing rice farmers a steady income. Rice has been given disproportionate weight over other crops, with the national agricultural cooperatives safeguarding farmers’ interests through rice-price negotiations. The industry as a whole has lost its ability to perceive the crisis, and conspicuously little progress has been made toward modernization.

In fiscal 2009 (April 2009 to March 2010), total farm output in Japan came to 8.2 trillion yen. Rice accounted for 21.9% (1.8 trillion yen) of the total, even less than vegetables, at 25.5% (2.1 trillion yen), even though rice farmers outnumber vegetable farmers five to one. In addition, tariffs on vegetable imports are virtually nonexistent, ranging from zero to three percent, yet Japanese growers still supply about 80% of the domestic market. The comparison is not flattering.

Saito Kazushi, a pig and rice farmer from Yamagata Prefecture in the northeastern part of Japan, is the founder of a local cooperative with 120 farming households and served as the only farmer on the panel of a national congress calling for the early participation in the TPP Talks. Saito warns, “Farmers are about to become an extinct breed…. In a decade, we will no longer have the people or technology to grow crops, and it will be too late to produce our own food even if we realize we must do that.”

Some people claim that eliminating tariffs will open the gates to a flood of imported rice and lead to the demise of Japanese rice, since it wouldn’t be able to survive the price competition. My own opinion is that Japanese rice will, like domestic vegetables and fruit, do fine on the international market because of the high standards of quality and safety. Japanese cuisine is popular internationally today, which is another reason it will likely fare well.

Courage and Decision-Making Power
I sometimes have the occasion to speak with young volunteers in the satoyama movement to conserve local forests and other land traditionally used and maintained by the community and in locales affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. It’s clear many people want to help revive rural areas by getting jobs in agriculture or fishing, but there’s no system or way of helping them get started. Nor is there a way to assist them in finding new uses and markets for domestic rice.

The slump in domestic rice consumption has caused the price of a 60-kilogram bag to fall from 15,000 yen a decade ago, when it was four or five times more expensive than imported grains, to less than twice the price of imports today. Exporting rice may one day be a possibility. It makes more sense to remove the protective cocoon of tariffs and make agriculture a strong, viable industry. Participation in TPP is something we should not fear.

The Council for the Realization of the Revival of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Industries, chaired by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, recently released a five-year action plan calling for the establishment of larger-scale farms that are 20 to 30 hectares in flatlands and 10 to 20 hectares in mountainous areas. It also called for steps to encourage more young people to take jobs in farming, such as subsidies for young farmers. Grants like these are available in a number of countries, such as France, which has a food self-sufficiency rate of 130%. Doing so would be a more meaningful and positive way of supporting the industry than providing subsidies to part-time farmers, who comprise 70% of the total.

People say that policy continuity is important, but in the case of agricultural policies in Japan today, we need to have the strength and resolve to disengage ourselves from the past. We must not let the country’s agricultural sector become a boiled frog.

(The original Japanese article was published in the December 27, 2011 issue of Sankei Shimbun.)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 12:35 | URL | comment(0)
A Meeting with President Thein Sein - Visit to Myanmar (4) - [2012年01月13日(Fri)]

Photo of me with President Thein Sein; he complimented me on the traditional Myanmarese outfit I was wearing.

A Meeting with President Thein Sein
Visit to Myanmar (4)

During my recent trip to Myanmar I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Thein Sein at the presidential palace in Nay Pyi Daw. It was our first meeting since he was appointed president−following our earlier meeting in Tokyo in November 2009, when he visited Japan as prime minister.

During Thein Sein’s tenure as prime minister, a referendum on a new constitution was held and general elections were called. After taking over as president, he introduced democratic reforms at lightning speed. He suspended construction of the Myitsone dam, which was being built with Chinese capital to supply electricity to the Chinese market and was also opposed by Aung San Suu Kyi. The move marked a retreat from the country’s pro-China stance and was one that was sure to sour bilateral relations.

Thein Sein also removed the ban on the opposition National League for Democracy, led by Suu Kyi, wisely gave Suu Kyi permission to run for a seat in parliament, and welcomed a visit to the country by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

It will take time for the United States to lift economic sanctions because approval by Congress is needed. But Britain has plans to significantly boost its aid in the near future, and the European Union is poised to do the same.

Although Japan and Myanmar have close ties, Japan has deferred to the United States in its diplomatic policies toward the military administration in Myanmar. And I know for a fact it has let Myanmar down on numerous occasions. Today Japan provides far less assistance to Myanmar than China and South Korea do. As someone familiar with the situation in Myanmar, I can only hope the government takes this opportunity to close that gap.

South Korea has found natural gas off the coast of Rakhine State and is now taking steps to produce it commercially within two years. President Thein Sein hopes that Japan will step up its assistance and that Japanese businesses will make inroads into the country, so the gap can be closed. He has also underscored the importance that transfers of agricultural technology from Japan can play in improving the lives of the Myanmar’s farmers.

The global population now stands at more than seven billion, and in the coming years the world will suffer from food shortages. China has begun importing some of its food, and grain prices have shot up 200% to 500% over the past two or three years. Rice has the potential to become a primary export commodity for Myanmar, since it can be harvested two or three times a year.

After Japan’s defeat in World War II, when food shortages were rampant, Myanmar donated rice to Japan on numerous occasions. The country has a special place in the hearts of the Japanese people, and we must not forget the kindness extended us.

Under Thein Sein’s consummate leadership, Myanmar is closing the chapter on its long years of isolation and moving toward becoming a democratic member of the international community. The ardency and determination of the president are palpable. After years of junta rule, military control has seeped into the lowest administrative levels. This is something that won’t change overnight and will likely continue both openly and covertly for some time to come. Suu Kyi’s push for democracy is strong, and the international community is watching every move the president makes.

I asked Thein Sein about the possibility of allowing foreign media organizations to set up a bureau in Myanmar some time around 2013. The president replied frankly: “We’re in the process of drawing up legislation now for this purpose. But it’s been just eight months since the birth of a democratic administration. There are a ton of problems that need to be dealt with, so please be patient.”

Myanmar has been chosen as the host of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014. As part of the preparations for this event, we have proposed the creation of various human resource programs−including efforts centered on personnel at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs−and the reception in Japan of regular parliamentary delegations from Myanmar. President Thein Sein indicated his satisfaction at the approach taken by the Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation of involving the private sector in these efforts.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Some Thoughts on the Great East Japan Earthquake [2012年01月07日(Sat)]

Some Thoughts on the Great East Japan Earthquake

On October 4, 2011, I gave a talk titled “Some Thoughts on the Great East Japan Earthquake” to the Okayama Association of Corporate Executives. A portion of the speech was carried in the daily Sanyo Shimbun the following day. Though a few months have passed since then, I would like to reprint it here.

What Corporations Can Do To Bolster NPOs’ Relief Efforts
The Nippon Foundation has undertaken various initiatives using the proceeds of motorboat races held at 24 locations around Japan in a cycle, one could say, of “activities for and by the people.” The Great East Japan Earthquake was an unprecedented calamity that shattered a 500-kilometer-long swath of coastline running north to south. Many people escaped with just the clothes on their back.

As somebody who experienced the Tokyo air raids during World War II, I know what it is like to lose everything except your life and live each day not knowing what the future holds. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, I decided I would go to Tohoku and pass out 50,000 yen to individuals there. While I realized the security precautions such an act required, I knew speed was of the essence if we were to help as many people as possible.

One thing that struck me was the appalling lack of information, something that became apparent as we and cooperating organizations from all over Japan, engaged in relief work. People in the stricken areas did not know where hot meals were served or where they could go to get clothing and food supplies. In the evacuation centers, a number of people had visual or hearing disabilities. Yet we didn’t even have sign language interpreters for Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio’s press conferences and other announcements that were being broadcasted on national television. After making repeated requests to the prime minister’s residence, we were able to see sign language interpreters interpreting important announcements made by government on TV. But these were merely makeshift measures. No efforts are being made to learn from our mistakes and enhance our disaster preparedness. This, unfortunately, is the reality.

Many of you made donations to the Japanese Red Cross Society, Central Community Chest of Japan, and other organizations. A total of \320 billion was collected, but after 6 months, only a small portion had been distributed. In the city of Sendai, for example, just 35% was used. The central government, for its part, declared the matter “taken care of” after meeting less than two hours and deciding local governments would be given 8 or 9 billion yen each. Everybody knows \100,000 in hand is worth more than a million yen a year after the disaster, but even so, the clock ticks and no action is taken. The failure to distribute the aid so generously provided by all of you frustrates me.

Japan is saddled with almost \1 quadrillion yen in outstanding debt, and the central government and local governments are finding it difficult to cover the growing costs of social welfare programs. Corporate social responsibility programs and nonprofit organizations activities offer one solution. Donations to NPOs are one way of enabling people in the stricken areas to live healthy, productive lives; and this is a goal that can be achieved.

Each year the Nippon Foundation ranks firms listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange First Section, based on their corporate social activities. Today, corporations are regarded as corporate citizens and expected to contribute to society as such, but Japan lags far behind many other countries in this regard.

A growing number of young people express a desire to find employment at a company with a full range of social initiatives, and the question of corporate social responsibility is becoming a consideration for global investors and an investment standard. A growing number of consumers are increasingly basing their purchasing decisions on a company’s environmental activities.

I would like as many needy or vulnerable people as possible to be helped through corporate initiatives and NPO activities. In this respect, the Nippon Foundation has a mission to play as an intermediary between NPOs and corporations.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:25 | URL | comment(0)
Birth of White Elephant Bodes Well for Myanmar [2012年01月06日(Fri)]

The calf rubs against the zookeeper.

Birth of White Elephant Bodes Well for Myanmar
Visit to Myanmar (3)

Because white elephants are extremely rare, people consider their sighting to be a propitious sign.

When a white elephant is found in Thailand, it is presented to the king and celebrations are held. The Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant is the name of the highest award bestowed by the king on individuals for service to the nation. My father, Sasakawa Ryōichi, had the honor of receiving that award from King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In October 2010, just before a referendum on revising Myanmar’s constitution, a white elephant was discovered in Rakhine State, on its border with Bangladesh. The elephant, regarded as a good omen, was transported to Naypyitaw, the new capital of Myanmar, and has been carefully nurtured since then.

During my stay in Nay Pyi Daw, I took time off from my meetings with cabinet ministers to see the elephant. In an area open to the public, a white elephant and a baby not white in color were eating hay. My guide was Tin Nyunt, the former director general of the Department of Traditional Medicine, Ministry of Health. Tin Nyunt spoke with the zookeeper, and a gate then opened and we were permitted to enter.

Apparently, the white elephant found in Rakhine was pregnant, and two weeks ago she gave birth to a healthy calf. An elephant’s gestation period is 18 months. The newborn remains out of public view, but I received special permission to see it.

We walked about 100 meters along a quiet, shady road in a thickly wooded area. There we came upon an enclosure, not large, with the white elephant and her calf. The newborn’s skin was pink with a coat of white fuzz. It was hard to believe it was just two weeks old. It was adorable, boisterously running around its mother and on occasion rubbing against the zookeeper.

Not knowing anything about elephants, I was surprised to learn that whereas the teats of cows, sheep, and goats are located near the hind legs, elephants have just two situated between the front legs.

The images of the elephant in this blog entry may be the first released to the public.

Myanmar’s national symbol was formerly a peacock―chosen by Aung San when he was a general, as a symbol of power and good fortune. Later a lion was used to denote strength, even though the creature is not indigenous to Myanmar. And today it is a white elephant. A white elephant even graces the high-denomination 5,000 kyat note.

Now that national elections have been held in Myanmar, sessions of the parliament are being convened, and President Thein Sein has gained the nation’s approval for his democratic policies, there is no question Myanmar is making quick strikes transforming itself into a democratic state. I hope that the birth of the white elephant marks the country’s political rebirth.

*Regrettably, the new capital is not yet open to foreign tourists.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)