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Japan Decides to Cancel US$4.7 million Grant for Education Center in Myanmar


Japan has canceled a multimillion-dollar grant for a business education center in Myanmar following the death of a Japanese journalist during a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Yangon, officials said Tuesday.

The Japanese government earlier had said it would suspend some of its assistance to Myanmar in response to the death of Kenji Nagai during the Sept. 26-27 crackdown by Myanmar’s military rulers.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Tokyo has decided to cancel a grant worth 552 million yen (US$4.7 million; euro3.3 million) for the center, slated for the Yangon University campus.

Machimura said the decision was made in response to the violent crackdown on protesters and followed a U.N. statement condemning the violence.

“We sent a signal to the Myanmar government that our thinking is the same as that of the international community. Now it’s up to the Myanmar government to respond,” Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda told reporters.

The center was supposed to offer economics, management and Japanese language courses, to promote bilateral ties and economic reform in Myanmar, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

The two counties had previously agreed in 2005 to set up the center, but the agreement expired due to a prolonged bidding process and they had been negotiating the plan again, according to a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing policy.

“The Japanese government will continue to call on Myanmar to work toward true democratization,” Machimura said.

Machimura said no specific additional measures were being considered for now.

Nagai, 50, was among at least 10 people killed in the crackdown when soldiers fired automatic weapons into crowds of demonstrators in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. Nagai was working for the Japanese news agency APF News.

Last week, the 15-member U.N. Security Council issued its first statement on Myanmar in an attempt to pressure the military rulers in charge of the isolated country since 1988 to enter a dialogue with the opposition and make moves toward democratic reforms.

In 2005, Japan provided grants totaling 1.3 billion yen (US$11.2 million; euro7.9 million) and 1.7 billion yen (US$14.7 million; euro10.3 million) in technology assistance, according to the latest ministry figures.

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