Yohei Sasakawa Named Japan’s Special Envoy for National Reconciliation in Myanmar

Yohei Sasakawa, the chairman of the Nippon Foundation, has been appointed Japan’s special representative to help achieve ethnic reconciliation in Myanmar. The decision to appoint him was made by the government of Japan at a Cabinet session held on February 19.

Sasakawa’s official title for this newly created post, which has no fixed tenure, is “Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar.” The position will require him to perform special duties as a national civil servant. He will represent the Japanese government’s effort to foster national reconciliation through dialog between the Myanmar government, ethnic minorities, and the governments of other countries.

At the press conference to announce the appointment, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the position of special envoy was created “to facilitate the process of reconciliation between Myanmar’s government and ethnic minorities” and that he expects progress on this front.

The ties between the Nippon Foundation and Myanmar date back many years. Since the days when the country was under military rule the philanthropic organization has been assisting the country’s effort to eliminate leprosy and the stigma against those affected by the disease, along with building schools.

The appointment of Sasakawa as special envoy follows his earlier appointment, in June 2012, to be Japan’s “Goodwill Ambassador for Welfare of the National Races in Myanmar.” In that role, Sasakawa has proactively worked to assist the ethnic minorities of Myanmar by providing rice and medical supplies to the areas where they live. He emphasized at the time he was appointed that “there can be no unification and democratization of Myanmar without reconciliation among the different ethnic groups,” and that he would do his utmost to fulfill the heavy responsibility placed upon him.

Sasakawa’s new position as special envoy for the Japanese government is similar to the responsibilities bestowed in 2002 on Yasushi Akashi, former under-secretary-general of the United Nations, to represent Japan’s effort to foster peace and reconstruction in Sri Lanka.

For more on the efforts of the Nippon Foundation to assist Myanmar, see our series of articles on activities in that country.