Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win together with his counterparts from the Mekong region - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - were in Tokyo for the first MekongJapan foreign ministers' meeting.
Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura signed a memorandum of understanding with his Laotian counterpart, Thongloun Sisoulith, Cambodia's Hor Namhong and Vietnam's Pham Gia Khiem. It provides financial assistance through the JapanAsean Integration Fund to those countries.
Japan cancelled nearly $5 million in development assistance to juntaruled Burma in October last year in response to the military crackdown on street protests in late September. At least 31 were killed, including Japanese news photographer Kenji Nagai.
Some 40 Burmese activists in Japan staged a protest yesterday in front of the meeting venue, and the hotel where Nyan Win is staying.
They are demanding an end to international assistance for the militaryruled country.
They displayed portraits of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and posters reading "stop killing in Burma".
The $20million fund will be spent improving transport and freight along the EastWest Economic Corridor, the link from Thailand, via Laos, to Vietnam as well as the CambodiaLaosVietnam Development Triangle.
Japan and the three countries decided on a list of projects, which included a feasibility study of road improvements in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Thailand is not a recipient, but joined the meeting as a partner with Japan.
Koumura praised Thailand's role in the Mekongbasin development.
The region's countries appreciate Japan and Thailand's continued support for the development of the region, he said.
Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram said Thailand had contributed some $55 million to neighbours in the region between 1995 and 2006, plus some $200 million for 16 infrastructure projects.
Nitya linked Thailand's brainchild project the AyeyawadyChao PhyaMekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) with Japan's role in developing the region. ACMECS consists of Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. That was the reason Burma's minister was in Tokyo.
In ACMECS, Thailand is ready to play a role with Japan in undertaking study of development of Laos's Savanakhet Airport, he said.
"Thailand looks forward to working with Japan and cooperation with Mekong countries to identify other projects and areas where trilateral cooperation can be applied," Nitya said.
by Supalak G Khundee