See More on Facebook

Analysis, Diplomacy

Despite pressure elsewhere, Suu Kyi still has a friend in Japan

The diplomatic spaces in which Aung San Suu Kyi, the state counselor of Myanmar, can move without serious challenge are growing increasingly narrow.


Written by

Updated: October 9, 2018

In August, a report by a United Nations fact-finding mission declared that the violence committed in Rakhine State against members of the country’s Rohingya muslim minority was a genocide and recommended that top officials in the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, be investigated for the role they played. Suu Kyi has steadfastly denied that any such ethnic cleansing has taken place.

In September, Suu Kyi greeted the jailing of two Reuters journalists, which had been met with outrage by many in the global community with a shrug.

“If anybody feels there has been a miscarriage of justice, I would like them to point it out,” she told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi where she fielded questions on both the crackdown on free press and treatment of Rohingya muslims.

Suu Kyi’s silence and indifference may be catching up with her on the world stage. Less than a week ago, Canada’s parliament voted unanimously voted to strip her of her honorary Canadian citizenship, but it’s unlikely that she will face any such diplomatic heat or pushback on her visit this week to Japan for the Mekong-Japan Summit in Tokyo.

While many western governments have taken a harshly critical tone against the handling of the crisis by Myanmar’s government—and of Suu Kyi’s leadership specifically—Japan has long avoided confrontation and condemnation when it comes to Myanmar’s domestic affairs.

Japan, for example, sat out when it came time to vote in December of last year on the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution to condemn the Rohingya situation in Rakhine State. And, more recently, while other nations have pulled back from the Tatmadaw—the United States has imposed two rounds of sanctions on the military—Japan has continued to affirm its support.

In February of this year, Myanmar Times reported that Kentaro Sonoura, special adviser to the Japanese prime minister on national security, said Japan believes the Tatmadaw  “has an important role in consolidating democracy in Myanmar.”

Japan’s reluctance to apply diplomatic pressure in Myanmar or to speak out on topics like violence in Rakhine State or freedom of the press can be understood partly in connection with Japan’s economic interests in Myanmar. As recently as May, Japanese investment in Myanmar reached an all-time high of about $1.48 billion. Japan sees Myanmar as a market for goods, a valuable labor force, and as a means to put up a fight against China for strategic dominance in the region.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Quinn Libson
About the Author: Quinn Libson is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Diplomacy

Diplomatic thaw prompted active inter-Korean exchanges in 2018

The number of South Koreans visiting the North and vice versa increased sharply to 7,498 in 2018 from 115 in 2017. South Korea greatly expanded exchanges and cooperation with North Korea last year, buoyed by a diplomatic thaw following three inter-Korean summits, according to a new white paper published by the Ministry of Unification on Thursday. The surge in visits was attributed to government initiatives to cooperate with the North on an inter-Korean railway connection project, a forestry project and various sports events. Social and cultural exchanges driven by civic groups and local governments also played a role, according to the 2019 White Paper on


By The Korea Herald
March 22, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Italy to play a key role as Belt and Road opens new doors across globe

Italy will be a major part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. East-West relations have entered a new phase. Global integration, with sustained increases in crossborder exchanges of goods, technology, knowledge and resources, has reshaped international relations, spurring economic development of traditionally marginal regions and encouraging economic convergence among poorer and richer areas. The phenomenon has received great impetus from the possibilities offered by technological progress and the increase in physical and digital connectivity, strongly enhanced by the modernization and innovation efforts of Asian countries. What we have seen and are still seeing, indeed, is not a simple shift of production from the West to the East, but a real change in production models. The production and consumption of goods and services have followed value chains that are no longer confined to a local scale, but are


By China Daily
March 22, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

No sign of concrete policies for conflict in Thailand’s restive south

Parties offer few if any answers for a 15-year-old deadly insurgency that successive govts have failed to quell. Peace and conflict have never been significant parts of any political party platform in Thailand. This is because a sustainable solution calls for long-term commitment to a policy that could prove to be politically costly. Lasting peace requires self-reflection on the part of both the state and society. Policymakers have to rethink the policy of assimilation that has so far been rejected by the Malay Muslim populace of the southern border provinces because it comes at the expense of their cultural and religious identity. Full-fledged armed insurgency erupted in the far South in the 1960s, some 50 years after the signing of the Anglo-Siam Treaty that defined our current political borders. There was a brief calm in the 1990s, but the absence of violence did not mean peace. A new generat


By The Nation (Thailand)
March 22, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

How competing masculinities inform Pak-India escalation

Devaluing the other in gender hierarchies often takes place through feminisation. Last month, tensions reigned high between neighbouring nuclear powers that share an ugly history of separation and bellicosity. Once more, India and Pakistan seemed to be at the brink of war. Airports were shut down, the Line of Control was violated, and de-escalation — especially in the newfound absence of dedicated third-party intervention — looked out of bounds for the most part. War-mongering through media outlets prevailed while fake and selective news circulated in this situation of crisis. Yet, it is baffling — if also not amusing — that even in such delicate moments, rhetoric of ‘putting them in their place’ was omnipresent on both sides. Similarly, a few months ago, when Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted his disappointment regarding peace talks with India, he chastised that he ha


By Dawn
March 21, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Moon holds meeting with US intelligence chief in Seoul

The meeting comes after the failed Hanoi summit between Trump and Kim. President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday met with US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in Seoul to discuss bilateral issues, Cheong Wa Dae said. According to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom, Moon and Coats held an “in-depth and wide ranging discussion about current issues between South Korea and the US.” Coats’ visit is seen as aimed at sharing information and assessment of North Korea following the breakdown of last month’s summit between the two countries. Earlier, a local newspaper reported that Coats arrived at a US air base in Osan, south of Seoul,


By The Korea Herald
March 21, 2019

Analysis, Diplomacy

Is Kim Jong-un considering ‘new way’?

Post Hanoi summit failure, speculation grows on what new mode of defense may be. Following the failure to reach an agreement at last month’s summit between the US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, tension has been building between the two sides, threatening the negotiations that they have built over the past year. While the breakdown of their second meeting did not lead to a war of words, North Korea said it was considering suspending talks with the United States, while Washington accused Pyongyang of “not doing what it needs to do.” The communist leader warned in his New Year’s speech this year he would have to find a new way for defending the North if the US did not keep its promises. As the US appears to have no intention of taking the “commensurate measures” the North seeks for the denuclearization steps it has taken, speculation has grown as to whether


By The Korea Herald
March 20, 2019