Posts tagged ‘Japan’

December 11, 2013

Japan: Raise Concerns About Abducted Lao Activist

One Year On, Sombath Somphone Remains Forcibly Disappeared

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December 11, 2013

(Tokyo) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan should raise concerns about the enforced disappearance of a prominent civil society leader in the prime minister’s meeting  with Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong at the Japan-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International Japan, Mekong Watch, Empowerment For All Japan, and two other Japanese nongovernmental organizations said today in a joint letter to Prime Minister Abe.

The Japan-ASEAN Summit, scheduled from December 13-15, 2013, falls during the one-year anniversary of the abduction and forcible disappearance of Sombath Somphone, a recipient of the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. Sombath was taken into custody by authorities at a checkpoint outside a police station in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, on December 15, 2012.

“On the one-year anniversary of Sombath Somphone’s abduction, Prime Minister Abe should break Japan’s public silence and call upon the Lao government to reveal the truth about Sombath’s fate,” said Kanae Doi, Japan director. “Japan’s words carry weight since it is the largest donor to Laos. Prime Minister Abe should use this leverage to send a strong message to the Lao leadership that it needs to stop ignoring the pleas to reveal what happened to Sombath.”

Since Sombath’s enforced disappearance, the Lao government has failed to conduct a serious investigation, despite widespread regional and international calls for accountability. Japan’s public silence on the Sombath case sends precisely the wrong signal to the Lao government, suggesting that its inaction is acceptable to Japan, the organizations said.

Consistent with its stated commitment to diplomacy based on the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law, the groups said, the Japanese government should take leadership in sending the message to the Lao government and other ASEAN member states that the protection against enforced disappearances is a concern not only of the government involved but of the broader international community.

“Japan should work with other international donors to make clear that they will not let this rest until the Lao government provides full information regarding Sombath’s case,” said Hideki Wakabayashi, secretary general of Amnesty International Japan. “The Lao government also needs to bring all those responsible for his enforced disappearance to justice.”

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“On the one-year anniversary of Sombath Somphone’s abduction, Prime Minister Abe should break Japan’s public silence and call upon the Lao government to reveal the truth about Sombath’s fate. Japan’s words carry weight since it is the largest donor to Laos. Prime Minister Abe should use this leverage to send a strong message to the Lao leadership that it needs to stop ignoring the pleas to reveal what happened to Sombath.”
Kanae Doi, Japan director
June 21, 2011

Japan further grants over US$3 million for Lao human resource


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VIENTIANE, June 21 (KPL)- Japanese Government has further provided US$ 3 million to the human resource development of Laos in the year of 2012.

Exchange note ceremony was held at the Ministry of Planning and Investment on 20 June.

The financial support is under theme of Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarship (JDS) in 2011-15 periods.

Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarship has been implemented by the government of Lao PDR with financial support from government of Japan.

The note was signed between Director General of the International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Planning and Investment, Mr. Somchit Inthamith and Chief Representative of Japanese International Cooperation Agency to Laos, Mr. Masato Togawa in the presence of relevant officials.

Mr. Somchit highlighted the objective of this project is to support the Lao government in its efforts to implement its national plan for human resource development, especially aiming at capacity and building institutional strengthening which will contribute to the overall effort for both short and long term.

The areas of the courses are focus on seven train sections ranging from law, public policy, administration, economics, public finance, agriculture, rural development, education to engineering.

Lao students and government officials will be awarded for more than 20 scholarships of master decrees to study in Japan.

Since 1999, 235 young scholars have studied in Japan under the JDS, 195 of whom have obtained their degree and returned to Laos.

They have now been working in both government and private sectors assuming many important positions.

This further demonstrates Japan’s strong support for Lao human resource development effort as well as for the overall socio-economic development of Lao PDR, Mr Somchit said at signing ceremony.

Since 2008 the said programme aimed to support young government officers (exclusively for public sector) who hold prospectus potentials to play leadership roles in their work specialties after return home to their country.

“As the result I strongly believe that this project is of great help as it directly support the Lao Government to meet its current development needs while contributing to ensuring future prosperity, he continued.

This agreement between the Lao government and Japan government to implement the project for Human Resource Development Scholarship for the year 2012 is of great importance for the Lao PDR as it will support one of the priority areas listed under the National Social Economic Development Plan for 2011-2015, particularly human resource development and capacity for government officials. (KPL)

March 27, 2011

Radiation in Massachusetts rainwater likely from Japan



BOSTON — Health officials said Sunday that one sample of Massachusetts rainwater has registered very low concentrations of radiation, most likely from the Japanese nuclear power plant damaged earlier this month by an earthquake and tsunami.

John Auerbach, the Massachusetts commissioner of public health, said that radioiodine-131 found in the sample – one of more than 100 that have been taken around the country – has a short life of only eight days. He said the drinking water supply in the state was unaffected and officials do not expect any health concerns.

Nevada and other Western states also have reported minuscule amounts of radiation, but scientists say those presented no health risks.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health said the in-state sample was taken in the past week, but they did not say where. The testing is part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency network that monitors for radioactivity.

State officials said similar testing was done in California, Pennsylvania, Washington and other states, and showed comparable levels of I-131 in rain.

Massachusetts testing last week of samples from the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs showed no detectable levels of I-131, health officials said.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. directed the Department of Environmental Protection to collect additional samples for testing from several water bodies across Massachusetts. Results will be available over the next several days.

In Japan, mounting problems, including miscalculated radiation figures and inadequate storage tanks for huge amounts of contaminated water, stymied emergency workers Sunday as they struggled to bring the country’s nuclear complex back from the edge of disaster. Workers were trying to remove radioactive water from the nuclear compound and restart the regular cooling systems for the dangerously hot fuel.


March 23, 2011

Passengers avoiding transit flights through Tokyo


2011/03/23 15:27:58

Taipei, March 23 (CNA) Local air travelers are willing to pay more to avoid transit stops in Tokyo, citing concerns about the nuclear crisis in Japan after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, airlines and travel agencies said Wednesday.

Many passengers have canceled flights to the United States via Tokyo and have opted for direct U.S.-bound flights instead, despite the higher cost, according to the Taipei-based Juih Ding travel agency.

The agency cited one extreme case in which a passenger chose to avoid taking a Minneapolis-bound flight via Tokyo, and opted instead for a direct flight to Los Angeles and an onward flight to Minneapolis, which cost the traveler an extra NT$13,500 (US$457).

Taiwan’s two major carriers — China Airlines and Eva Air — also said that as most travel agencies have canceled package tours to Japan, bookings to and from Tokyo have dropped.

Bookings for Tokyo-bound flights have been reduced to about 60 percent of normal volume, while bookings for incoming flights from the Japanese capital have also dropped to less than 50 percent. (By Wang Shu-fen and Ann Chen) ENDITEM/J

March 23, 2011

Tokyo water unsafe for infants after high radiation levels detected


Japanese capital’s water supply contains twice the safe level of radioactive iodine for young children, say the authorities


Radiation exceeding health limits for infants was found in a Tokyo city water purifier Link to this video

Authorities in Tokyo have warned that very young children in the Japanese capital should not drink tap water after it was found to contain twice the levels of radioactive iodine considered safe for infants.

The warning came as the spread of radioactivity continued through the food supply in the region surrounding the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Black smoke was seen rising on Wednesday afternoon from the plant’s No 3 reactor, prompting the operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to evacuate workers who have been battling to make the facility safe. The source of the smoke was not immediately known.

Tests conducted by the Tokyo metropolitan government identified 210 becquerels of iodine-131 per 1kg of tap water in the city, more than twice the limit of 100 becquerels considered safe for infants.

Tokyo’s water bureau said babies and infants under the age of one should not be given tap water, but added that radiation levels did not pose an immediate risk to adults. “This is without doubt, an effect of the Fukushima Daiichi plant,” a metropolitan government official said.

The capital’s governor, Shintaro Ishihara, said the levels were not hazardous to health, but advised parents of children aged under one not to use tap water with milk formula.

Earlier this week, some residents living near the nuclear plant, 150 miles north of Tokyo, were told not to drink tap water owing to abnormal levels of radioactive iodine, which can cause thyroid cancer if ingested in large enough quantities.

Until Wednesday, tests had shown negligible iodine-131 levels in Tokyo tap water.

Jim Smith, reader in environmental physics at the Portsmouth University, said: “Following the finding of up to 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine in tap water in Tokyo, the recommendation that infants are not given tap water is a sensible precaution. But it should be emphasised that the limit is set at a low level to ensure that consumption at that level is safe over a fairly long period of time. This means that consumption of small amounts of tap water – a few litres, say – at twice the recommended limit would not present a significant health risk. I would expect that the recommendation not to drink tap water would also extend to women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.”

The Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, instructed authorities in Fukushima to issue a ban on the consumption of certain agricultural products grown in the prefecture after radioactivity exceeding legal limits was found in 11 types of vegetable.

The list of contaminated produce includes spinach, komatsuna leaves, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. The government has also suspended shipment of the vegetables.

None of those products have reached the market since Monday, when the alarm was raised about contamination, according to Japan‘s agricultural co-operatives.

The health ministry detected 82,000 becquerels of radioactive caesium – 164 times the limit permitted by law, in kukitachina leaves from Motomiya in Fukushima prefecture, as well as 15,000 becquerels of radioactive iodine – more than seven times the limit.

Contamination has spread to neighbouring prefectures, with Ibaraki told to suspend shipments of milk and parsley.

The US, meanwhile, has become the first country to ban milk and food imports from Fukushima and three neighbouring prefectures.

The US food and drug administration said it would halt imports of dairy products, vegetables and fruit from the four prefectures, and would screen seafood and other produce imported from other parts of Japan.

South Korea is reportedly considering introducing similar measures, while France has asked the European commission to examine a community-wide response to Japanese food imports found to have been contaminated.

The Japanese government’s chief spokesman, Yukio Edano, said abnormal levels of radioactivity in food posed no threat to human health and urged trading partners to act rationally.

“We will explain to countries the facts and we hope they will take logical measures based on that,” he told reporters.

Tepco, meanwhile, has secured 2tn yen in loans to rebuild its power supply networks, which was badly damaged in the 11 March earthquake and tsunami.

Sumitomo Mitsui bank is to provide 600bn yen (£4.5bn), Mizuho 500bn yen and Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ about 300bn. The banks are expected to make the cash available by the end of the month.

Analysts said the loans suggested the government wants to secure Tepco’s survival, despite its central role in the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

“Given the amount of cash on [Tepco’s] balance sheet, I’m surprised at the urgency of the loan talks, but certainly the need to prevent a crisis of confidence could be seen as necessary to keep recovery efforts stable,” said Penn Bowers of CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in Tokyo.

“It’s interesting, as one suspects that the government has implicitly guaranteed the survival of Tepco as a regulated entity if all these institutions are willing to accept the risk.”

The Japanese government estimates that the earthquake and tsunami caused damage totalling 16tn yen ($185bn) to 25tn yen, making it the world’s costliest natural disaster.

The sum dwarfs the $100bn (£600m) of damage cause by the Kobe earthquake in January 1995, and does not include the effect on economic activity from rolling blackouts, which could continue for several weeks, or the impact of the Fukushima nuclear emergency.

“The impact from the planned power outages is likely to be significant,” said Fumihira Nishizaki, a cabinet office official said.

The Bank of Japan’s governor, Masaaki Shirakawa, said the disaster would have severe consequences for the economy.

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