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Statement Calling for the Japanese Government to Stop ODA to Myanmar

December 5th, 2022  •  Author:   59 Civil Society Organizations  •  7 minute read
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December 5, 2022

H.E. Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister of Japan

H.E. Yoshimasa Hayashi, Foreign Minister of Japan

 

Statement Calling for the Japanese Government to Stop ODA to Myanmar

 

ayus:Network of Buddhists Volunteers on International Cooperation

Friends of the Earth Japan

Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC)

Network Against Japan Arms Trade (NAJAT)

Mekong Watch

 

Since the attempted coup by the military in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, there have been numerous reports of murder, sexual violence, forced disappearance, and torture by the military as well as security forces under military command. As of November 18, 2022, at least 2,519 people have been killed by the Myanmar military. This figure includes at least 191 children. Further, among those who have protested the attempted seizure of power by the Myanmar military, more than 16,275 people have been arbitrarily detained or have had arrest warrants issued by the illegitimate junta. Across Myanmar, there are an estimated 1.44 million internally displaced people (as of November 1), about one million of whom were newly displaced after the attempted coup.

By 2020, the Japanese government provided JPY 356.51 billion in total in grant aid as well as JPY 109.94 billion in total in technical assistance to Myanmar, and promised JPY 1,378.47 billion in loan aid (figure based on loan agreements). Regarding its policy on these Official Development Assistance (ODA) after the attempted coup, on May 21, 2021, then Foreign Minister Motegi stated that “…if the situation continues in this way, it is possible that we will be compelled to review ODA and that companies may become unable to provide investment even if they want to,” and that “as a country that has provided various forms of support for the democratization of Myanmar, and as a friend, Japan believes that we must clearly convey such points to Myanmar, and we have actually done so.” However, since then, despite the worsening human rights crisis in Myanmar, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has simply repeated that it would “comprehensively consider what measures may be effective while viewing the situation of the efforts made by Japan and the international community” in response to questions in the Diet and inquiries from citizens for over a year and a half, and has not taken any concrete measures to date.

A large part of ODA to Myanmar is loan aid (yen loans) for development of a special economic zone and surrounding infrastructure, construction of roads, and repairing railroads, as well as grant aid and technical assistance in the education, health, and agriculture sectors and aid provided through NGOs.  It has been made clear by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission that in Myanmar that companies owned or controlled by the military conduct many business operations, and that revenues from those operations are a source of funds for the military, supporting their atrocities. In consideration of such findings, since the attempted coup, civil society organizations have consistently urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to investigate whether ODA projects are financing the military and to publish the findings from such an investigation. So far, a complaint by a local stakeholder has indicated that in the construction of Bago Bridge, a yen loan project, a company related to Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) is providing materials for the bridge. MEC is one of the military enterprises that the above-mentioned Fact-Finding Mission recommended to the international community not to enter into or remain in a business relationship with. However, neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor JICA has publicly explained the relationship between ODA projects and military-related enterprises. Because the Japanese government has continued ODA without any explanation, at the many protests that have been organized by Myanmar people living in Japan and Japanese civil society in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, concerns have been expressed regularly about how the flow of ODA funds may benefit the military.

Even when ODA projects do not have business ties to the military, infrastructure that is built by ODA such as roads may be used in Myanmar military operations. Karen Peace Support Network has demanded that construction of a bridge in a conflict zone in the East-West Economic Corridor be suspended. Further, Human Rights Watch has pointed out that two out of three vessels provided under the 500 million yen Economic and Social Development Programme, signed on September 12, 2016 with Myanmar, was used for military purposes in Rakhine State on September 14, 2022. As long as armed clashes in the ethnic minority regions and crackdown on citizens continue, the economic ripple effect of large infrastructure projects such as those implemented by yen loans will not extend beyond a few companies, and there is little possibility that such projects will contribute to the improvement of living standards of the people in Myanmar overall. Given this, it lacks meaning to invest Japan’s public funds in infrastructure projects in Myanmar under the current circumstances.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in the Diet that as of April 2021, 34 ODA projects were being implemented, totaling JPY739.6 billion based on figures in loan agreements. This was confirmed at a meeting with NGOs. We share the concern of Myanmar citizens that by continuing so many projects worth so much money even after the attempted coup, the Japanese government is giving implicit support to the military junta.

One year and ten months have passed since the attempted coup, but the Myanmar military continues to commit grave human rights abuses that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. We express deep concern that Japan may be complicit in the human rights abuses by the military by providing ODA to the benefit of the military. We strongly demand that the Japanese government suspend all loan aid currently being implemented under the control of the Myanmar military and that it listens to the National Unity Government (NUG), Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs) and local Myanmar CSOs to effectively support the will of the people of Myanmar.

 

Endorsed by the following organizations:

1              Action Committee for Democracy Development (Coalition of 14 grassroots networks)                Myanmar

2              Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center          Japan

3              Asian Community Center 21           Japan

4              Asian Health Institute       Japan

5              Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters         Myanmar

6              Burma Campaign UK         United Kingdom

7              Burmese Relief Center Japan          Japan

8              Burmese Women’s Union Myanmar

9              Campaign for a New Myanmar      USA

10           Earth Tree             Japan

11           Equality Myanmar             Myanmar

12           ETOs Watch Coalition        Thailand

13           Family Based Learning Network of Farmers for Agrarian Reform (FALFAR)       Myanmar

14           Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan (FWUBC)          Japan

15           Friends Against Dictatorship (FAD)                Thailand

16           Future Light Center            Myanmar

17           Future Thanlwin  Myanmar

18           Gen-Z Myanmar Support Team      Myanmar

19           Generation Wave               Myanmar

20           Grass-root People              Myanmar

21           Human Rights Foundation of Monland        Myanmar

22           India For Myanmar            Myanmar

23           International Campaign for the Rohingya   USA

24           Japan Center for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES)      Japan

25           Japan Tropical Forest Action Network (JATAN)           Japan

26           Kachin Women’s Association Thailand         Myanmar

27           Karen Human Rights Group             Myanmar

28           Karen Peace Support Network       Myanmar

29           Karen Women’s Organization          Myanmar

30           Karenni National Women’s Organization     Myanmar

31           Keng Tun Youth   Myanmar

32           Let’s Help Each Other        Myanmar

33           Metta Campaign Mandalay             Myanmar

34           Myanmar News Now!!     Japan

35           Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)        Myanmar

36           Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma (ND-Burma)          Myanmar

37           Network for Indonesian Democracy (NINDJA)           Japan

38           No Business With Genocide            USA

39           Non-for profit Organization Music Dream Creation  Japan

40           Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica  Myanmar

41           Pacific Asia Resoure Center             Japan

42           Progressive Voice               Myanmar

43           Project SEVANA South-East Asia    Thailand

44           Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas           Myanmar

45           Second Tap Root Myanmar

46           Shan MATA           Myanmar

47           SHARE(Services for the Health in Asian & African Regions)    Japan

48           Sinapis   Japan

49           Sisters 2 Sisters   Myanmar

50           Southern Youth Development Organization               Myanmar

51           Spirit in Education Movement (SEM)            Thailand

52           Ta’ang Legal Aid  Myanmar

53           Tanintharyi MATA               Myanmar

54           The Free Burma Campaign (South Africa) (FBC(SA)) Myanmar

55           The Mekong Butterfly       Thailand

56           Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar Organization          Myanmar

57           U.S. Campaign for Burma                 United States

58           WE21 Japan         Japan

59           Women’s Democratic Club, Femin Japan

 

Contact:

Mekong Watch

3F Aoki Bldg., Taito 1-12-11, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0016 Japan

Phone: +81-3-3832-5034

E-mail: contact@mekongwatch.org


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