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Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup

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Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to coup | Thaiger

Japan may stop assistance projects to Myanmar in response to the military coup, which has received major international backlash. As a major donor to Myanmar, Japan joins other advanced nations in condemning the coup which has seen security forces using violence against peaceful protesters.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was quoted as saying in a phone call that “Japan will strongly urge the Myanmar military to release Suu Kyi and other detained individuals, and to swiftly restore democratic government.”

But it may not impose sanctions like the rest of the other developed countries as its longtime ties with the armed forces, ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy and investment promoting policy in the country may serve as a barrier in doing so. Britan and the United States have imposed sanctions in recent days which include the US freezing military funds.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official says stopping its support of building projects would give China a chance to move in, increasing its clout in Myanmar. Around 450 Japanese companies operate in Myanmar with Japan being the 5th largest investor in the Southeast nation. Singapore has the most companies, followed by China, Hong Kong and Vietnam.

The Foreign Ministry says Japan spent about US $1.8 billion in official development assistance in the fiscal year of 2019, making it the largest among the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But it is unknown what China has poured into it as it has refused to disclose its expenditures.

The Japanese government plans to continue coronavirus emergency assistance to Myanmar through international organisations and non-governmental organisations. The World Bank, however, has stopped payments to projects in the nation indefinitely, after the coup on February 1, which disrupted the democratic elections last November and saw the arrest of top leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party, the National League for Democracy, won the elections in a landslide victory.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    EdwardV

    Friday, February 26, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    Understandable Japan would take a much more measured approach. While countries like the UK, US and other democracies can afford to take a hard stance because they have little to no skin in the game. Others like Japan, need to still work with Myanmar both now and in the future. People assume the power struggle going on in Asia is between China and the US, it’s not. The real protagonists are China and Japan. There are real life geopolitical reasons Japanese can’t afford to burn their bridges with Myanmar.

  2. Avatar

    Supachai

    Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 3:14 pm

    Well said, EdwardV.
    Myanmar has a complicated history including a colonial past, ravages of WWII and the rise of the military. Its population is multi-ethnic and inter-woven, with several rebel groups locked in turf wars in frontier states. It is also rich in natural resources so coveted by China. All these factors make it a delicate balancing act when interacting with Myanmar. Japan has long supported the country and its people even in tough times and has a lot at stake.

  3. Avatar

    Morty14

    Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 9:33 pm

    A bit hypocritical for Japan since the last major coup in a southeast Asian country next to Mymamar, it was business as usual for the Japanese

  4. Avatar

    EdwardV

    Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at 4:06 am

    Morty, not sure Japan is really doing anything different. Outside of condemning the coup in Myanmar, Japan isn’t in fact doing anything else. Pretty much the same thing they did with Thailand. A few economic development deals might be postponed or even canceled, but that’s small potatoes. Many of the western democracies did much more including economic sanctions, suspension of military cooperation, and lots of cancelled business deals. That said, while the two countries are next to each other, they are worlds apart in geopolitical capital. Thailand is a linchpin of the area, Myanmar not so much. It only makes sense to treat them differently even if at a moralistic level you wouldn’t think so.

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Thailand

Debate continues in Thailand over new NGO law

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Debate continues in Thailand over new NGO law | Thaiger
PHOTO: New law may label many organizations as NGOs required to follow strict rules.

With a new draft law to allow closer government scrutiny of NGO funding and activities, Thailand has been tightening its grip on non-governmental organisations operating within their borders. There’s much debate over whether these restrictions are an effort to limit foreign influence and act in the interest of national security, or an attempt to silence critics of Thailand’s government.

Amnesty International has observed in their 2020-2021 annual report that NGO legislation aiming to restrict or limit these organisations’ effectiveness has been seen in Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, and Russia in recent years.

But a spokesperson for Thailand’s government said that the goal of this law was just to ensure that money received by NGOs in Thailand is put to use correctly and that objectives are truly for the public benefit. Many of the approximately 100 NGOs operating currently in Thailand receive overseas fundings, and not all of them offer up information about where this funding comes from. The government says the stricter regulations are designed for national security and to limit foreign intervention politically or financially into local Thai matters.

This assertion comes with allegations that organisations with ties to the American CIA may be growing their influence in Thai politics. A Khon Kaen University academic recently lost his visa and work permit after being accused of links to anti-government protesters and the CIA, charges which he denies.

The Bill on the Operations of Not-For-Profit Organisations was originally approved by the Thai Cabinet in late February and requires stricter reporting by NGOs regarding how much money they are receiving and from who. The bill would allow the government to audit their accounts and investigate the legality of their actions. The review on this law is almost completed and it’s expected to go to Parliament for approval by the end of this month.

Those opposed to this new bill believe that it gives the Thai government authority to harass activists and civil society groups that speak out against the government by broadly categorising them under the NGO title. They believe that the definition is purposely broad in order to require many groups in Thailand to register as an NGO and follow these strict requirements. Penalties for violating these restrictions can be up to 5 years in jail or 100,000 baht in fines. This punishment was labelled as disproportionate by an advisor from the Union for Civil Liberty, saying that this move could essentially scare off organisations that were working to benefit society.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Politics

PM Prayut will send Foreign Minister to Myanmar summit

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PM Prayut will send Foreign Minister to Myanmar summit | Thaiger
PHOTO: Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai will attend the ASEAN summit on Myanmar in place of the PM.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that he won’t attend the ASEAN summit regarding Myanmar, but will send Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in his place. The summit, to be held in Jakarta this Saturday will address the increasingly dangerous situation in Myanmar where fear is growing that the ongoing protests against the February 1 coup could descend into civil war.

The meeting will be the first of national leaders, minus PM Prayut, as previous discussion of Myanmar has been between foreign ministers. Myanmar army leader Gen Min Aung Hlaing will attend the Myanmar summit, and the shadow government ousted by the coup has requested representation at the meetings as well.

Indonesia, stepping into a peacekeeping middleman role Thailand had played in the past, has been pushing to quell the growing crisis.

This time Thailand may be caught in the middle, with the Western world reevaluating its perception of the country. China and Russia’s tacit, if not financial, support of Myanmar’s junta, and Thailand’s hesitation in condemning the Burmese coup, shines a spotlight on Thailand’s own close relationship to China.

The lack of concrete condemnation of the Burmese junta, and possibly PM Prayut’s decision to skip the Myanmar summit, is also a reminder that the current Thai government also came into power in a coup 7 years ago. And the last year of young protests in Thailand calling for the repeal of lese majeste laws and a replacement of the current government further a realignment of the country’s perceived position on the scale of democratic freedom and authoritarianism.

Thailand is also closely connected to Myanmar not just by the geographic border, but also through 7 to 8 billion baht invested into the country. Behind only China first and Singapore second, Thailand is fearful of a complete collapse on their investments with trade shackled by civil unrest.

Exports fell 13% last year due to Covid-19, and are down another 15% in the first few months of this year and expected to fall even further. Thai business owners from manufacturing to massage shops are shuttering with staff refusing to work in the civil disarray while banking and trade have been throttled as well. Owners are calling for the Finance Ministry to restart trade assistance previously used from 2010 to 2015 before Burmese democracy.

On top of all these issues, sanctions from western nations may further cripple the Burmese economy. With Thailand’s close connections to Myanmar, and the spotlight on the situation growing globally, Foreign Minister Don will face pressure to navigate the delicate situation at Saturday’s Myanmar summit in Jakarta.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post and Thai Examiner

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Protests

Pro-democracy leader “Penguin” has bail application rejected – again

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Pro-democracy leader “Penguin” has bail application rejected – again | Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook / เพนกวิน - พริษฐ์ ชิวารักษ์ Parit Chiwarak

The Criminal Court in Bangkok has once again rejected a bail application from anti-government activist, Parit Chiwarak, aka, “Penguin”. The leader of the pro-democracy Ratsadon group had his application refused yesterday, on the basis that there was no reason to overturn previous decisions made by the Criminal and Appeals courts. The bail application had been lodged by Parit’s mother, Sureerat Chiwarak, with a bond of 200,000 baht.

According to a Thai PBS World report, Parit told judges at the Criminal Court that he didn’t recognise judicial proceedings. He said he did not want to defend himself during the hearing as previous rejections of his bail applications meant he had not received justice and this made it impossible for him to find the evidence he needs for his defence. It’s understood the protest leader has also asked his lawyer, Krisadang Nutcharas, to resign.

Parit is being charged with a number of offences, including lèse majesté charges, for his role in an anti-government protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument last November. It’s understood that while in prison, he went on a partial hunger strike and had to be put on an IV drip after prison officers found him in a weak state. The court has set a date of June 25 to examine witnesses for the prosecution, while defence witnesses will be examined on August 13.

Thailand has been rocked by anti-government protests since July of last year, although the recent resurgence of the Covid-19 virus has seen such activity die down. Pro-democracy activists are calling for the resignation of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, for a re-write of the Thai constitution, and for fresh elections to be held. They are also calling for reform of the monarchy, normally a highly-taboo subject in the Kingdom.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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