News

Japan Pledges $7.4B in Aid for Mekong Region

Ron Corben

Japan on Saturday pledged $7.4 billion in development aid over the next three years to Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam, and also waived billions of dollars in Burmese debt.

The aid, directed at boosting infrastructure in the Mekong River region -- a resource-rich area where China is competing for influence -- was the result of meetings in Tokyo between leaders of the five countries.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who announced the pledge, says Japan set out 57 "flagship" projects focusing on development of ports, highways, power plants and high-speed railways worth an estimated $28 billion.

At the meetings, Thai Prime Minister Yingluk Shinawatra called for Japan’s support in development of the $8.6 billion deep-sea port and industrial-estate development in Burma’s Dawei southern region, a project led by Thai development and construction companies.

Japan provided a key boost to Burma's military-backed civilian government of President Thein Sein by saying it would begin taking steps to forgive $3.7 billion of the country’s outstanding debt and said it was recommence suspended aid on condition the country continues moving ahead with political reforms.

Ian Storey, a fellow at the Institute for South East Asian Studies, says Japan’s aid program highlights growing competition in development spending in the region.

"Of course there are three development projects going on at the same time -- the Chinese, the Japanese and the Lower Mekong Initiative, which is [a 2009 cooperative development agreement between these five countries and] the U.S. -- so there seems to be some competition among the three powers in this area," he says.

Kanae Doi, Japan director for Human Rights Watch, says Japan must use the newly announced financial arrangements to keep pressuring Burma on following through with political reforms.

“The Japanese government should maintain its leverage for the next three years before the next general election in 2015," she says, explaining that Tokyo should strategically reward Burma with a combination of aid stimulus and debt forgiveness upon making actual steps toward reform.

Japan’s favorable policies toward Burma are likely to lead to a boost in Japanese investment in the country.

"We just want to make sure that these chances are used to the maximum extent," she says.

Meanwhile, the European Union on Monday announced a one-year suspension of a wide range of sanctions against Burma.

EU officials, who said they would retain an arms embargo, called for continued progress in the country’s political reforms, an end to ethnic conflict and the release of all remaining political prisoners.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs