Written by U Ne Oo on 1998-03-16
Dr U Ne Oo
18 Shannon Place
Adelaide SA 5000
March 18, 1998.
Mr Keizo Obuchi
Minister for Foreign Affairs
1-6 Nagata-cho, chiyoda-ku Nagata-cho, chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100, Japan.
I am a Burmese national currently residing in Australia. I am writing to you regarding with the recent decision by the Government of Japan to disburse 2.5 billion yen loan to Myanmar/Burma. Although this disbursement of loan to Burma is said to be a one-off case, and it does not constitute the full resumption of Official Development Assistance to Burma, I am concerned that it will send wrong signal to the military government in Burma. I therefore appeal the Governre appeal the Government of Japan to immediately revoke the disbursement of the loan to Burma.
I am also concerned by some of Japanese officials incorrectly interpreting the current loan to renovate the airport runway, which normally regarded as a development aid, as a form of humanitarian assistance. As the minister may be aware, we will not object Japan to provide any humanitarian assistance to Burma. However, we do not support Japan to give any development aid to Burma under this military junta.
Furthermore, I call thFurthermore, I call the minister's attention to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Myanmar of 52/137 of 12 December 1997. In accordance with this resolution, the current military council, State Peace and Development Council, does not have the right to conduct any contractual agreements as a legitimate government of Burma. The receiving of loans from Government of Japan can only be authorized by the Executive Committee of National League for Democracy, who are the democratically elected representatives of Burma.
The Rangoon airport is reported to have been in an advanced state of disrepair. In such case of an emergency need for repair, I recommend the relevant Japanese authorities approach the Executive Committee of National League for Democracy for an approval to renovate the runway as a small-scale development project. I believe this is the most acceptable way to carry out some development projects in Burma.
In closing, I thank minister for your kind attention to this matter. We, the Burmese people, continue to appreciontinue to appreciate the Government and People of Japan giving more attention to the situation in our country.
Yours respectfully and sincerely
Sd. U Ne Oo
Comment on Japan's Airport loan
1. It has been reported that Japanese administration will disburse 2.5 billion Yen (USD 19.5 million) loan, as part of 27bn Yen allocated for building of Rangoon international airport. The agreement to provide such loan was reportedly made before September 1988 and, therefore, present disbursement of such loan does not such loan does not constitute Japan resuming of the ODA to Burma, according to Ambassador Kazuo Asakai. Also stated is that Japan is simply trying to ensure safety of Rangoon airport with planned loan from a "humanitarian viewpoint" ( see report below).
2. In referring to loans/assistance to Burma, a clear distinction must be drawn between the (i) humanitarian assistance and (ii) the development aid, both of which will certainly fall within the humanitarian bound. For example, the assistance such as food, medicine and aid to temporary shelter for a distressed population -- i.e. refugees, flood victims etc.-- may be considered as humanitarian assistance. The kind of assistance that involve the improvement of infrastruture, such as renovating airport runway, must be considered as a development aid. Sure, such development aid may said to have made with the humanitarian spirit, but such assistance cannot be classified strictly as the "(i) humanitarian assistance/aid".
Another example: suppose a foreign government may provide aid, withinovernment may provide aid, within the humanitarian spirit, in order to raise the standard of health of the population in Burma. If that aid package include the building of a hospital, it should be considered as a development aid. On the other hand, if the assistance only consists of providing medicine, medical equipment, etc, it must be considered as "humanitarian assistance/aid".
We will have no objection to Japan or any other country for that matter, to provide Burma with the "(i) humanitarian assistance/aid." I do not, however, believe that any loan or assistance can become acceptable simply by having made it with the "humanitarian" purpose. In the case of renovating the airport runway, the safety of airport is a concern to Japan. Along the same line, we can equally argue that there are millions of commuters in Rangoon who use overcrowded buses and unsafe rail system everyday. This is why one should make a clear distinction between humanitarian assistance and development aid. Generally speaking, any non-military and development aid, in fact, can b development aid, in fact, can be considered to have made with the "humanitarian" purpose.
3. The international community must exercise caution, even in the case of providing "(i) humanitarian assistance/aid", to a country under the military dictatorship -- such as Burma. In these countries, it is desirable that the humanitarian assistance to be delivered by independent non-governmental organizations. Otherwise, the despotic authorities may use such assistance/aid in order to enhance its legitimacy. For example, Japanese Government's assi Government's assistance of fertilizer for the Burmese rice-farmers may be used by the Burmese authorities to recruit the rural-membership of Union Solidarity Development Association -- the military backed political party.
4. The Japanese administration's disbursement of loan, despite the repeated requests and protestations by Burma pro-democracy groups, to the Burmese military junta is unwise, ill-timed and insensitive. Burmese junta, on the other hand, do not respond Japan's goodwill with a good behaviour. Instead, Burmese aInstead, Burmese army attacked refugee camps and is seeking to crush minority rebels. Therefore, the Japanese administration should immediately revoke the disbursement of loan to the Burmese junta.
5. This emergency loan is intended, according to press release by Japan's ministry of foreign affairs, to repair the bumps and cracks on the runway and to improve the lighting system and control facilities. In the case of a dire need to renovate the airport, there are acceptable ways to get the airport upgraded in the long term. Tn the long term. The Japanese ambassador together with Rangoon Airport construction contractors should seek the approval of Executive Committee of National League for Democracy to upgrade the airport runway as a small-scale development project. In this case, we - the Burma pro-democracy groups outside - will have less reason to object those loans and aid.
6. There is no need for Japan to seek the opinion of ASEAN countries on the disbursement of its $20 million loan to Burma. It is alright for Japan to make its own decisions ots own decisions on Burma, whether our human rights and pro-democracy groups can agree or to disagree.
7. I shall soon write to the Japanese foreign minister about this matter. The valuable initiatives and continuing supports by all our friends regarding this are greatly appreciated.
With best regards, U Ne Oo.