Myanmar rebel leaders meet senior Japanese official

Brief Tokyo meeting represents growing stature of anti-junta forces, analysts say.
By RFA Burmese
2024.05.16
Myanmar rebel leaders meet senior Japanese official Karenni State Interim Executive Council Chairman Khu Oo Reh (left); Karen National Union (KNU) Chairman P'doh Saw Kwe Htoo Win (middle) and Japanese Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiro Komura (right) met on May 14, 2024.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan

A senior Japanese official met with the representatives from several of Myanmar’s ethnic armed organizations in Tokyo on Tuesday in a rare high-level meeting between anti-junta forces and a foreign power. 

Karen National Union Chairman P'doh Saw Kwe Htoo Win and Karenni State Interim Executive Council Chairman Khu Oo Reh, who is also the chairman of Karenni National Progressive Party, or KNPP, as well as several others, met with Japan’s Masahiro Komura, a parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs. 

A statement from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign affairs said that during the 20-minute meeting Komura “expressed that the Government of Japan would continue its efforts to find a way out of the current impasse through dialogue with various stakeholders in Myanmar.”

Aung San Myint, KNPP secretary and one of the meeting attendees, told Radio Free Asia that the discussion focused on Japan’s humanitarian support for those displaced by ongoing fighting. 

“We mainly discussed cooperation, especially in delivering humanitarian assistance for war-displaced persons across our state. We talked about possible assistance… for education, healthcare and humanitarian aid.”

Nikkei Asia reported that a delegation comprising representatives KNU, KNPP and Chin National Front, as well as the shadow National Unity Government – former civilian leaders in hiding or in exile – also met with members of Japan’s parliament during a weeklong mission that began May 10. 

KNU spokespeople declined to comment, while calls to junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun went unanswered. 

Kyaw Zaw Han, a researcher on  national security, said this type of mission to Japan represented the shifting realities of the situation in Myanmar. 

If rebel forces continue to take over areas formerly held by the military junta, they will increasingly have to turn to the international community for support in governing on the ground.  

"The revolutionary forces  need to consider more talks depending on their ongoing power and status. The result of international intervention will also depend on the Myanmar junta. It is quite early to make judgment on the possible impacts,” he explained. 

In late March, U.S. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet met with leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization, Karen National Union, Karenni National Progressive Party and Chin National Front and “discussed steps for the international community to expand assistance to those in need,” he wrote on X. 

More recently, Thailand’s powerful former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, in March and April met with the leaders of several armed ethnic groups. 

Nay Phone Latt, a spokesperson for the National Unity Government, said that the meeting between ethnic armed groups’ representatives and international officials represented progress for their anti-junta movement.

“We will also try to build up a federal system. In the federal democracy union, the relevant ethnic groups will stand as the important stakeholders in respective states. So the meeting of these stakeholders and international leaders is a good sign.”

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Abby Seiff and Malcolm Foster.

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