State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Foreign Minister of Japan Mr. Taro Kono conducted a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday morning, at which a faster railway and aid for Rakhine State was discussed.
In his message at the press conference, the Foreign Minister of Japan expressed his delight over meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, saying that he had a “very beneficial exchange of views on Myanmar and regional situations.”
Among the issues he discussed with the State Counsellor, he highlighted Japan’s assistance programme aimed at raising the living standards of the Myanmar people, and a railroad upgrade programme that will cut travel time between Yangon and Taungoo to three-and-a-half hours. The project is targeted to be completed in 2020.
“By 2023, the travel time between Yangon and Mandalay will be eight hours, and this will help the people’s travel as well as easing and speeding trade,” said Mr. Taro Kono.
Views were also exchanged on the situation in Rakhine State. Requests were made to increase ways to provide humanitarian assistance, providing more access to local and foreign media, safe and voluntary return and resettlement of displaced persons and to implement the recommendations made by Mr. Kofi Annan.
Arrangements were made to provide $20 million worth of assistance and aid to increase the humanitarian situation, especially providing education as well as livelihood training for women through international organizations. This will be officially announced only when the agreement of Japan National Diet is obtained, said the Japanese Foreign Minister.
In the same way, Japan plans to aid and support as much as possible in Myanmar’s undertakings. Confirmation was made with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to continue the Thilawa Special Economic Zone and the work of securing regional connectivity. We discussed the State Counsellor attending this year’s Mekong-Japan summit meeting that will be held in Japan. Japan will remain as a friend of Myanmar and will increase relations with Myanmar, said the Japanese Foreign Minister.
The State Counsellor said “I’m happy to greet the new Foreign Minister. I warmly welcome a representative of Japan, our good friend. Myanmar’s relations (with Japan) were always warm and Japan had provided assistance whenever we are in need. In today’s meeting with the Minister, much was discussed on helping in our country’s road communication and electricity requirement. Discussions were made on completing ongoing bilateral cooperation projects speedily and to increase development. We also discussed on properly receiving the returning displaced persons and the development of Rakhine State.”
“We are much thankful to Japan for its willingness to support both the short and long term needs. We all know that development takes time. However, we value the support and understanding of Japan on our wish to have this as soon as possible. As H.E. Kono had told all that we had discussed, I have nothing more to say. But I would like to add that Japan and we were through similar difficulties and we understand each other. Based on this understanding, the two countries’ status as close friends is expected to be increased. That is why I expect to meet again in a short time.”
“In conclusion, I expect H.E. and party’s trip to Rakhine State to be smooth. We have also made the best arrangements we can for this” said the State Counsellor.
Questions raised by the media were then answered.
Replying to a question on Rakhine State development, the Japanese Foreign Minister said “I think it is important to resolve the root of the problem of all the people living in Rakhine State for Rakhine State to develop. Recommendations of Mr. Kofi Annan’s advisory committee to increase the education and health sector, including the living conditions of the people in the region should be implemented as a priority.”
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that development works were started after UEHRD was formed. In addition to Japan’s emergency assistance, roads were laid and power distribution lines constructed in Rakhine State with an aim to raise the living standard. These will be done properly.
NGOs from Japan in addition to the government plans to construct 100 schools. In some schools both Buddhists and Muslims are studying together. We earnestly pray that such schools are reopened and expanded.
Private companies are also constructing 28 communication towers in northern Rakhine State for mobile phone communication and this is expected to increase the mobile phone communication in northern Rakhine State.
Japan will do the best it can to resolve the issue of poverty as this is the root of the problem in Rakhine State answered the Japanese Foreign Minister.
Responding to a question on assistance provided by Japan for Myanmar the Japanese Foreign Minister said “Since two years ago, Japan had set a policy of public-private partnership assistance totaling Japanese Yen 800 billion in a five year period to help peace and reconciliation of the people in Myanmar that will enable democracy to take root and for economic development. Especially assistance will be provided to Yangon urban development, improving transport, power supply, Yangon-Mandalay railroad improvement programs that will practically raise the living standard of the Myanmar people.”
“In addition to these, cooperation will be made in education, health and agriculture sector proposed by the Sate Counsellor. We are discussing cordially with the Myanmar government to conduct the aid and assistance programs. In order to invite investments, I would like to request reduction in the work processes in other sectors including the electricity sector. Japan will cooperate with Myanmar to establish a democratic country” said the Japanese Foreign Minister.
On the question of international criticism directed at Myanmar government on human rights and resettlement of displaced persons, the Japanese Foreign Minister said “The status of Rakhine State involves human rights, humanitarian matters and tension in communities and is very much complicated. The priority is on how to implement reconciliation within communities. Resettling of displaced person is not to differentiate communities but to implement reconciliation in communities.”
With this view, Japan will provide assistance to the Myanmar government led by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as much as possible. Assistance will be provided for resettling displaced persons, for reconciliation of the communities in Rakhine State and to improve humanitarian situation.
In doing this, Japan will review and find sectors where more assistance can be made and how. We strongly hope to implement peace, stability and reconciliation of all the communities in Rakhine State said the Japanese Foreign Minister.
Replying to the questions of international criticisms, Bengalis killed during security operations in Inndin village and works conducted on resettling of displaced persons, the State Counsellor said “I know there is much interest internationally on Rakhine State. But what we need to do is very much wide. Our country’s affairs could not be viewed only through Rakhine State. Rakhine State is part of our union. But in addition to the present problem, we must not lose sight of our long term aim. As mentioned earlier by H.E. Kono, the main thing is the long term reconciliation of peoples living in Rakhine State, building friendship and trust. We will emphasize on this. There will be criticisms. Criticisms can be positive or negative. We need to study this thoroughly and decide what to do. The outcome of the decision will be felt by our people. Another thing is the Inndin village matter. There were killings in Inndin village. The Tatmadaw had conducted an investigation and will be taking action so this is viewed as a new step taken by our country. In the end, rule of law in the country is the responsibility of that country. It is a positive indication that we are taking the steps to be responsible. However, some may worry. But I believe that our investigation will prevent such things from happening again. H.E. Kono had mentioned comprehensively about accepting displaced persons. All preparations have been made.”