Journalist urges Japan to pressure junta


A Japanese journalist released from Myanmar in a prisoner amnesty called for Tokyo to put more pressure on the junta and accept refugees fleeing the South-East Asian country.

Toru Kubota spent three-and-a-half months in prison after being detained near an anti-government rally in Yangon in July along with two Myanmar citizens.

Thousands of people have been jailed during a bloody crackdown on dissent in Myanmar since a military coup in February 2021.

Kubota, 26, was sentenced to seven years in jail for filming an anti-coup protest and also received a three-year sentence for violating Myanmar’s immigration laws.

He was released on Nov 18 along with thousands of other prisoners, including former British ambassador Vicky Bowman and Australian economist Sean Turnell, an adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Kubota urged Japan, which has long been a major donor and investor, “to take a strong proactive approach to human rights violations in Myanmar and also to more proactively criticise Myanmar for that”.

He said in Tokyo yesterday Japan should “scrutinise very strictly whether such funds are being used by the military, flowing to the military, and whether the funds are essentially being used to kill people”.

Japan announced after the coup it would halt all new aid projects, although existing programmes were not affected, and Tokyo has stopped short of imposing sanctions on military and police commanders.

The defence ministry said in September it was ending a controversial programme training members of Myanmar’s military.

Kubota also urged Tokyo to accept more refugees from Myanmar.

Japan is a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention but takes in a handful of refugees from conflicts around the world each year. — AFP

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