Nippon Foundation Chairman Named Goodwill Ambassador for Welfare of National Races in Myanmar by Japan's Foreign Ministry

The Nippon Foundation announced on June 12 that its Chairman Yohei Sasakawa has been appointed by Japan’s Foreign Ministry as Goodwill Ambassador for the Welfare of the National Races in Myanmar. Sasakawa received a letter of appointment from Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba at a ceremony on June 11. The term of his appointment is one year.

The letter calls for the goodwill ambassador to work with the Japanese Government to help ethnic minorities. Sasakawa showed his enthusiasm by saying: "In cooperation with the Japanese government, I would like to work at the private-sector level for the improvement of the lives of the people of Myanmar and for their true reconciliation with the government."

The Nippon Foundation has been active in assisting Myanmar in a wide range of fields. When Sasakawa visited Myanmar in December 2011, he was asked by President Thein Sein and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to support ethnic minorities.

The Japanese government is taking a positive stance toward assisting Myanmar, such as through the resumption of official development assistance (ODA). Sasakawa’s appointment came in recognition of the Foundation’s many years of activities in Myanmar.

At the appointment ceremony, Sasakawa expressed hope that these programs to improve the lives of ethnic minorities, including herb production for increasing the value of mountain farms, school construction, the supply of medicine chests, and the provision of artificial limbs for those injured in war, would aid in the reconciliation between the ethnic minorities and the government. In response, Foreign Minister Gemba said, "Efforts to improve education and healthcare are those that most touch local people’s heartstrings."

Sasakawa was appointed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2001 as Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, and as the Japanese Government’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy in 2007. After his appointment ceremony, Sasakawa reiterated his enthusiasm for his new work, saying: "For Myanmar’s democratization to succeed, solving its ethnic minority problems is essential. I would like to emphasise support in education, healthcare and agriculture."

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