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Japan told to lean on Myanmar

May 24, 2013 at 12:09 PM

TOKYO, May 24 (UPI) -- The Japanese government needs to ensure it's getting a return on its investments in Myanmar by making human rights a priority, Human Rights Watch said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived Friday in Myanmar as part of a three-day visit. It's the first by a sitting Japanese leader in more than 30 years.

His visit comes as several governments start easing sanctions imposed on Myanmar in response to democratic reforms that began with general elections in 2010. Abe will be accompanied by several business representatives.

Human Rights Watch reports Japan is expected to double its assistance to Myanmar, formerly Burma. Japan is already the largest foreign donor, contributing $500 million in loans last year.

HRW Director of Asian programs Brad Adams said Japan's contributions mean it has leverage over Myanmar's human rights record.

"Aid and investment in Burma should not ignore needed reforms in the rule of law, transparency and accountability," he said in a statement.

Human rights groups said many of the reforms are in jeopardy because of easing economic pressure. They credit sanctions with encouraging basic reforms.

"Development projects in [Myanmar] have frequently been synonymous with abuses such as forced labor, land evictions, and denial of basic rights, and Japan should use its leverage to ensure these abuses end," Adams said.

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