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INTERVIEW : Real State of Myanmar

SOURCE: Myanmar Information - http://www.myanmar.com/

The Sekai Nippo, November. 27, 1999


For we Japanese people, Myanmar was an intimate and friendly country
known as "Burma". In 1988, the country fell into confusion because
dead lock of the closed  Socialism by the Ne Win Government which had
- ruled the country for 2 years. Then the present military government
was established by counp d'etat. It still has closed and dangerous
image because the minus image by words of military government and
active propaganda of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, an anti-government
activist to western countries' mass-media. But, what about the real
state of the country ? We interviewed with former -Japanese Ambassador
to Myanmar Mr. Yoichi Yamaguchi, who published a book recently titled
"Real state of Myanmar."

(Reporter: Kazuya Sato)
Double Standard of Western Countries
QUESTION - You said "Listening and looking has a great difference" in
your book, and emphasized even under the rule of the military
government, the country is calm and stable. The people look happy with
cheerful look. Don't you think our Foreign Ministry is not making
enough efforts to give correct information to us?

ANSWER -  Yes, they are making their efforts. Foreign Ministry is
paying great attention to the information from our embassies in
overseas. But, while they have opinions of Japanese embassies, so many
news of mass media are flowing into the people. In addition to that
western countries also have their own opinions. Foreign Ministry is
making it's efforts but still they can not lead the understanding of
our people to correct direction. Also, there are interruptions from
western countries. Of course, the relationship between Japan and
America is important, but we do not need to take same policy as
America, because Japan is not a subject state of America. "Burma" for
America and "Myanmar" for Japan is different historically and in the
field of culture. 
QUESTION - Why America oppose the present Myanmar government ?
ANSWER -   After the end of cold war, the people of western countries
started to take interest on democratization or human rights. And
public    opinions in these countries begun to blame and punish
countries where    western type democratization or human rights are
not carrying out. Various kinds of human rights groups, women's
organizations, and opposition parties in diet gave pressure on
governments. All western countries had to listen their opinions, and
at least they must take attitude to do something about it.    But if
they do something to China, Indonesia or Vietnam, they may get
repulsion from their own economic fields because they have close
economic relation with these countries. Also, they are afraid the
direct counter attack from these countries.
However, in ease of small country like Myanmar, it is easy to put
squeeze on it because their economic world has no close relationship
with Myanmar. As you can see, this is nothing but "Double Standard".
Mrs. Suu Kyi is losing support from the people

QUESTION - It seems to us that you are quite critical to Mrs. Aung San
Suu Kyi, anti-government activist and Novel Prize recipient.

ANSWER -   In 1988, Mrs. Suu Kyi r4turned home from her long stay in
overseas, then she was made as figure head of anti-government
movements. Her followers are either communists or radical elements of
students. On the other hand, they have no active policy for the
country and the people. But she and her group believe if they do
something, all mass media of western countries will report that the
military government equal evil and Mrs. Suu Kyi equal good.

QUESTION - Is there any differences between the present military
government and Pak government of Korea or Suharto government of
Indonesia ?

ANSWER -   The biggest difference is the Myanmar military government
is not dictatorial system by a man of absolute power, it is taking a
group    leading system. It's supreme organization "State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC) is organized by 19 members practically;
Chairman Than Shwe, Vice Chairman Maung Aye, Secretary One Khin Nyunt
and Secretary Two Tin Oo decide the will with consensus of these 4
members. They did not take the power by their desires, but have strong
will of mission, and working on construction of the country without
any self-interest or personal gain. There are almost no corruption.

When we met them, we had a great impression. In '88, the country was
in chaos. As many as 16 minor races stood against the government and
the country was in real critical situation and there were a great
possibility the country might be torn up.

So soldiers group had to rise themselves unavoidably and established
the present government.

The second feature is that they declared openly that they will not
cling to the power permanently and it is just a provisional
government. They also said their duty is build up foundation of the
country, and as soon as it is accomplished, the power will be
transfered to civil government. Build up the foundation of the country
means establishment of the constitution. At present, they do not have
constitution, so they promised to the people that first establish the
constitution and call general election based on the constitution and
then transfer the power to civil government.

QUESTION - But they do not say when transfer to civil government.
ANSWER -   They are saying that it will be done as soon as the
constitution is established but not when. While I was the ambassador
to Myanmar, I told them several times "Why don't you announce clearly
when." But they told me that the most difficult problem in Myanmar is
about minor races. Now they are working on how to provide regulations
in the constitution to give autonomy to each minor races. It is a very
difficult matter, because there are 135 different minor races in the

They must provide regulations clearly in the constitution so that
every minor races do not feel discontent. Otherwise, there are
possibility of riot again. Therefore, they are working on real
carefully, because if they announce the constitution will be
established before certain day and month, the minor races may get
impression that the government send them an ultimatum.

They throw out aims from bus windows
QUESTION - We understand that economically, Myanmar is aiming at
economic modernization based on principle of market economy. How about
disparity of wealth among the people ?
ANSWER -   There are no difference between rich and poor.
Traditionally, society of Myanmar is indiscriminate and equal society.
If they get some money, donate it as an act of charity. They are real
pious Buddhists.

Every towns are collecting contributions. It is not given to monks
directly but used to build new temple and others.   One day, I was
driving my ear in a countryside, each villages were collecting
contributions. I was surprised because a bus came into  the village.
Since it was long distant bus, it did not stop the village. l Then,
passengers begun to throw money from window of running bus for

I had chances to call at the residence of the Secretary One General
Khin Nyunt and other high ranking officials of the government several
times  but their residences are same as houses of ordinary citizen,
all so simple and plain.

QUESTION - Are you optimistic about transferring the power to civil
government in future ?
ANSWER -  The most important thing to forecast the future is what the
people of Myanmar is thinking about present state of polities. In '88,
the people rose in revolt against the government and the country
became a state    of anarchy.  But the political psychology of the
people in '88 and their present    political psychology is completely
different. I asked several educated person "What do you think about
the present state of polities ?" They replied "We don't think the
present military government is best, but we understand it is a
necessary step to make the country stable in future."  Now more than
10  years has passed after that. Meanwhile the military government
obtained some excellent results. Public order was restored and rate of
criminal offenses is lower than Japan (As of 1996, the criminal rate
of Japan per 100,000 persons was 1.92 cases, but Myanmar was only 0.25
eases). The riots by minor races have settled down. Although the peace
negotiation with Karen is not settled down yet, the most parts of the
country is safe now. 

Relationship with neighbouring  countries became better, and they
could joined to ASEAN too. The most important thing is to create
democratic political system.

Therefore, the government is making it's best efforts to establish the
constitution. The people knows it well, so most of them are taking
attitude of "Acknowledge present state and not doing any movements." 
So, from now on there is no possibility of big confusion like in '88.
Japan should resume aid positively

ANSWER -   As an exceptional ease of difference of diplomatic policy
of Japan and America is policy toward Iran and policy to Myanmar.
American policy to Myanmar is far from aid or support, on the contrary
just squeezing them only. Against it, basically Japan urge Myanmar to
speed up the construction of the country to correct direction as the
military government is doing now and support them. For that we must
resume the aid. 

Since the present military government was born in 1988, our economic
aid '  had been suspended completely except some urgent human rights
aid such as flood, or other big disasters.

In '95, Mrs. Suu Kyi was released from her home arrest, we started a
new aid policy to Myanmar, which was "While watching the improvement
of state of democratization and human rights, we resume aid ease by

In October '95, Japan granted about 1.6 billion yen for expansion
project of nurse school. But, after that the further enforcement of
this policy was opposed by America and some of our own people, we
could not make any progress in '96 and '97. But, in '98, we could give
about 2.5 billion yen loan for project of the Yangon International
QUESTION - What our aid in future should be?

A. -Myanmar is in difficulty both financially and technically for
construction of the country. They have no aid from overseas at all.
Also by objection of America, international organizations such as IMF
or World Bank are not giving any aid to them. They are receiving few
aid only from China or Thailand. Therefore, based on the basic policy
in '95, Japan should give aid and support for their efforts.

Mg Myanmar
A Myanmar citizen who loves Myanmar

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