Japan to provide $7.73bn in aid to Myanmar

Japan to provide $7.73bn in aid to Myanmar

Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accompanied by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reviews a guard of honour before their meeting at the Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo on Wednesday. (AFP photo)
Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accompanied by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, reviews a guard of honour before their meeting at the Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo on Wednesday. (AFP photo)

TOKYO - Japan will provide aid worth 800 billion yen ($7.73 billion) to Myanmar over five years to support its peace-building and development efforts, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday.

About 40 billion yen of the aid planned by the government and private sector will be directed towards supporting ethnic minorities in the Southeast Asian nation.

"We hope this aid will help spread the fruit of peace building to various regions in Myanmar, and drive it forward," Abe told a joint news conference at the Akasaka Palace state guesthouse in Tokyo with Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The rest of the aid would be spent on areas such as airports and electricity projects, Japanese officials said.

Japanese officials have described Myanmar as the "final frontier within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations," citing its potential given its natural resources.

Suu Kyi arrived Tuesday on a five-day visit to Japan, her first visit to Asia's second-largest economy since the pro-democracy party she leads took power in March following a landmark election.

"I expect this will contribute to the country's development," Suu Kyi said at the joint press conference.

At an event with members of Japan's Myanmar community earlier in the day, Suu Kyi said Myanmar's economy "needs to be developed in every sector," with a slowdown in global growth adding to the country's economic difficulties.

"We need a lot of investment and many economic experts with fresh ideas," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said.

Suu Kyi is visiting Japan to court investment and aid, as an upsurge in violence against a persecuted Muslim minority at home poses a crisis after six months in power and triggers US criticism.

Soldiers have poured into an area of northwestern Rakhine state in a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims following attacks launched by an insurgent group the government believes has ties to overseas Islamists.

Residents and human rights advocates have said government forces have committed abuses, including summary executions, rape and setting fire to homes.

Myanmar needs Japanese investment and robust bilateral ties as a counterweight to its largest trading partner, China.

In turn, Japan is eager for opportunities to help Myanmar meet its extensive infrastructure and development needs. 

Nearly 50 years of economic mismanagement by a military dictatorship have left Myanmar's roads, airports and electricity supply in disarray.

There is little homegrown industry and recent annual economic growth of 8 percent has been mostly underpinned by imports.

In September, US President Barack Obama announced he would scrap most economic sanctions. Two weeks ago, Suu Kyi promised foreign investors a clearer legal framework and opportunities in untapped sectors.

Japan, which never imposed trade and financial sanctions on Myanmar, already has a significant presence, centred on the Japan-led Thilawa Special Economic Zone.

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