How Japan matters to Myanmar

It was big news yesterday when Japan’s Kirin announced that because of the military coup it would end its joint venture partnership with Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, a military owned company.

Here is an extract of some brief reflections of Japan’s role in law and development in Myanmar.

“The largest donor by far to Myanmar is Japan, yet the efforts of Japan or other countries such as China in terms of their development impact in the region and around the globe are often overlooked…

The Japanese have a history of providing aid to Burma, and since 1962 Burma has relied heavily on it. In 1987, aid from Japan made up 20 per cent of Burma’s national budget. After the coup of 1988, Japan was the first country to recognise the military government and continue aid relations (Oishi and Furuoka 2003: 898). Japan was the only government to continue providing scholarships to civil servants to study in Japan during the military regime. It has even been said that in 1998 SLORC released Aung San Suu Kyi in part to please the Japanese, who had promised a significant amount of aid and financial assistance (Fink 2009: 78). Japan was among the first to establish ties with the University of Yangon Law Department, and to set up a Myanmar-Japan Legal Resource Centre on campus, with a particular focus on business law reforms. JICA has negotiated physical desk space in a range of government ministries, from the Union Attorney General’s Office to the Ministry of Mining… While the involvement of Japan in development is less well-known (but see Inada 2014), it is clearly one of the major foreign actors in the business of transition because of its long-term commitment and strong relationships it has fostered among the civil service in Myanmar.

Extract from The Business of Transition: Law, Economics and Development in Myanmar. Cambridge University Press (2017).