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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007

¥552 million Myanmar aid project nixed

Japan hits junta over crackdown, Nagai death


Staff writer

The government will cancel a ¥552 million project to build a human resource training center in Myanmar to protest the recent military crackdown on the democracy movement and the killing of a Japanese video journalist, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Tuesday.

The training center, which was to have been built within the compound of a public university in Yangon, was among a few major infrastructure projects in Myanmar being considered for Japanese official development assistance.

"We need to show the stance of the Japanese government. We cannot take actions that support the military junta," Komura said after a Cabinet meeting in which he reported the decision to other ministers.

Japan has pursued an engagement policy toward the junta, maintaining diplomatic contacts and providing humanitarian ODA projects to directly benefit the public.

But the government has decided to take a harder line, in part because of the repeated airing in Japan of footage of the shooting of video journalist Kenji Nagai.

Komura reiterated that Japan will continue humanitarian assistance to directly help the people of Myanmar, including a polio vaccination program through UNICEF.

Japan delivered grant aid to Myanmar in 2006 worth ¥1.35 billion and technical assistance worth ¥1.73 billion.

"This human resource development center, too, would help the people in the long run, but it would also assist the current government (by directly financing an infrastructure project). That's why we are going to cancel it," Komura said.

The center had been designed to teach Japanese corporate management methods and provide other knowledge about market economies, Foreign Ministry officials said.

Japan halted fresh major ODA to Myanmar in 2003 when the junta arrested democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

Komura said Tokyo will stand behind the U.N. engagement in Myanmar and will help promote democratization by cooperating with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Handover demand

Staff report

Journalists, TV anchors and lawyers who were friends of slain video journalist Kenji Nagai said Tuesday they are asking the public to support their protest targeting the Myanmar government and demand that the junta hand over the video camera and tape he was using when he was killed.

At a news conference in Tokyo, the group also said they will demand that Myanmar reveal the details of how the slaying occurred and punish the security force soldier responsible.

"Shooting and taking the life of the Japanese journalist without any warning as he was reporting is a brutal act of interference with reporting, and it is clear that this was intentional. We, as members of the international community, and as Japanese citizens, will not tolerate this brutal act," the group said in a statement.

"Reporters are covering events to tell the public what is going on in the world, but what happened is depriving people's right to know," said Shuntaro Torigoe, a well-known freelance broadcast journalist.

Torigoe, one of the key members of the petition campaign, said he knew Nagai through his work for several years.

The group started a signature campaign via the Internet on Oct. 2 and said it has gathered 7,000 supporters. It is aiming to get at least 10,000 names before presenting a written protest to the Myanmar Embassy in Tokyo later this month, organizers said.

Nagai was gunned down Sept. 27 while covering the Myanmar junta's violent crackdown on democracy advocates in Yangon. Widely broadcast video footage from the scene appears to show a soldier shoving Nagai to the ground and shooting him at close range.

Footage of Nagai on the ground after he was shot also shows him pointing his video camera at a soldier. But the camera — and its videotape — were not provided when Myanmar handed his corpse over to Japanese authorities.



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