[Blueboard] ACAS' IAB member's take on Myanmar & Japanese sanctions

Ateneo Center for Asian Studies acas at admu.edu.ph
Sat Sep 29 23:18:45 PHT 2007

The article below appeared online in Japan Times, September 29, 2007. 
Professor Kei Nemoto is a member of the International Advisory Board of Ateneo 
Center for Asian Studies (ACAS). Thank you for posting.

Kei Nemoto, a foreign studies professor at Sophia University in Tokyo, favors 
imposing economic sanctions on Myanmar to underline Japan's displeasure with 
the military government's use of violence.
"The junta may consider sanctions by Japan irrelevant, but we need to send a 
clear message to them," the expert on Myanmar's history and politics said, 
adding that a strong gesture would be consistent with the response of the 
international community.
"Although its (sic) unlikely that the Foreign Ministry will agree, I think it 
has come to the point where the Japanese ambassador in Myanmar should be 
recalled to Japan (as a sign of protest)," Nemoto said.
Unlike the United States and some European countries, Tokyo has not imposed 
serious economic sanctions on Myanmar to avoid isolating it from the 
international community. 
According to the Foreign Ministry, Japan's exports to Myanmar totaled ¥26.56 
billion, while imports from the country came to ¥12.64 billion in 2006. 
Japanese grants to Myanmar were worth ¥1.35 billion, while technical 
assistance was worth ¥1.73 billion in the same year.
While maintaining economic ties, the government says it has urged Myanmar to 
promote democratization. But after the military government put Nobel Peace 
Prize-winning prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest again in 
May 2003, Tokyo stopped providing new official development assistance to the 
Southeast Asian country, except for urgent and humanitarian assistance 
projects, including construction of hospitals and schools in rural areas.
Suu Kyi's house arrest also triggered more Myanmar people in Japan to apply 
for refugee status. They are now the largest group of foreign nationals 
seeking political asylum. 
According to the Justice Ministry, 626 Myanmar nationals applied for refugee 
status last year, compared with 38 in 2002.
In contrast, the ministry accepted only 28 people from Myanmar and six other 
asylum-seekers in 2006. In the same year, another 33 people from Myanmar were 
also given official residency permits due to "humanitarian considerations" 
although they were not officially recognized as refugees like the others, the 
ministry said.
Lawyer Shogo Watanabe, who represents many Myanmar asylum-seekers in Japan, 
said the current situation there may push the Japanese government to grant 
more Myanmar nationals either refugee status or official residency permits.
"In the least, the government must not decide to send people who are seeking 
protection here back to (Myanmar) under the current situation," he said. "I 
don't think they actually can."

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