Skip to comments.Japan Punishes Myanmar Over Suu Kyi
Posted on 06/25/2003 7:29:26 AM PDT by Valin
YANGON, Myanmar - Japan, Myanmar's largest donor, froze all financial aid to the country on Wednesday to punish its military government for detaining pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Japan appears to be rethinking its policy of engaging the junta in a dialogue with promises of aid - unlike the United States, the European Union and Britain, which have already imposed sanctions to press for Suu Kyi's freedom.
Also Wednesday, U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail, the only outsider to see Suu Kyi since her arrest more than three weeks ago, said U.N. officials are "increasingly alarmed" about the government's refusal to release her.
Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy party were taken into "protective custody" after a clash between her supporters and government backers during a political tour in northern Myanmar on May 30.
She has been held incommunicado since then, and the government has refused to disclose her whereabouts or say when she will be released despite an international outcry.
Britain's Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien set off a fresh round of outrage last week when he said the Nobel Peace Prize laureate was being held in a "two-room hut" at the infamous Insein prison in northern Yangon. He did not say how he had learned of her purported location.
But Myanmar Home Minister Col. Tin Hlaing, in a meeting with British Ambassador Vicky Bowman on Wednesday, denied that Suu Kyi was in Insein, said Martin Garret, a British diplomat who also attended the meeting. The minister did not say where she was, only that it was not Insein, Garret said.
Tokyo's decision to freeze the aid comes two days after Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tetsuro Yano returned empty-handed from a mission to Myanmar to secure Suu Kyi's release. Japan, one of the few developed countries in direct talks with the military government, gave $78 million in fiscal 2001, the latest year for which figures are available.
Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current junta came to power in 1988 after a crackdown on a pro-democracy movement that left thousands dead.
Japan halted new loans following the military takeover but says it has been providing development aid on a case-by-case basis as it monitors the junta's progress on human rights and democratization.
Before 1988, Japan's grants to Myanmar, also known as Burma, made up 60 percent of all foreign aid and grants to the country.
Suu Kyi's detention has brought to a halt the slow-moving national reconciliation process initiated by Razali in October 2000 to end the country's political deadlock. The government has been at loggerheads with Suu Kyi since 1990, when it called elections but refused to hand over power when her party won.
Suu Kyi, 58, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her nonviolent democracy campaign and has spent most of the time since then under house arrest or strict surveillance.