Myanmar’s democracy hero Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Japan today,her first visit to the country where she spent time as a university researcher nearly three decades ago.
A group of well-wishers including Burmese gathered at Tokyo’s Narita airport to greet the Suu Kyi,now her country’s opposition leader,but were denied the chance to meet her as she left through a backdoor.
“I respect her like my mother,” one of Burmese women said in an interview with public broadcaster NHK. “I want to tell her that I support her strongly.” During her six-day trip,the Nobel laureate is expected to have meetings with some of the approximately 10,000 Burmese who live in Japan,as well as with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
It is Suu Kyi’s first visit to Japan since spending time as a researcher at Kyoto University in 1985-86. But a leader of about 200 of Myanmar’s Muslim minority Rohingya in Japan has expressed disappointment after being told his community was not wanted at events welcoming Suu Kyi.
The Rohingya have been described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. The apparent tensions between groupings within the expatriate Myanmar community underline growing problems between Muslims and Buddhists at home that have cast a shadow over much-vaunted political reforms of recent years.
Activists have expressed disappointment that Suu Kyi,a 67-year-old Nobel laureate who was locked up for 15 years by the former junta,has remained largely silent about several episodes of communal bloodshed.
Suu Kyi’s connection to Japan stems from her father,General Aung San,who led the independence movement in the country then known as Burma against British colonial rule. From late 1940 he spent several months in Japan,whose Imperial Army then involved in a brutal campaign of conquest across Asia – had offered succour,including cash,weaponry and manpower.
Two years later he established a Japanese-backed government,but by 1945 had enlisted the help of the British to liberate Burma from Tokyo’s colonial rule.