Dear Prime Minister Fumio Kishida,
We write as fellow elected parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia and Japan in view of Japan’s status as a democracy with global influence, its special relationship with Myanmar and indeed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). We call on your administration to immediately intensify its efforts to prevent Myanmar from becoming a failed state due to the illegal military junta’s brutal campaign of violence against those who oppose its rule.
We also note that Japan, as a member of the G7, has issued a statement strongly condemning the recent executions of four political prisoners, and stating that these executions, the first in Myanmar in over thirty years, show the junta’s contempt for the democratic aspirations of the Myanmar people.
We also note with interest your remarks delivered in Singapore at the Shangri La Dialogue, in which you announced the Kishida Doctrine, and that the review of Japan’s National Security Strategy will be completed this year. And we welcome Japan’s leadership and commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, to world peace and support for ASEAN, diversity, democracy and human rights.
With regard to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, we take note of your statement that “no country or region in the world can shrug this off as someone else’s problem. It is a situation that shakes the very foundations of the international order which every country and individual … should regard as their own affair.”
Moreover, in strategic coordination with other governments, Japan has taken extraordinary steps, including sanctions, to ensure Russia’s government feels the pressure of the international community for its brutal invasion of another state.
However, when it comes to the situation in Myanmar, it would seem that Japan has refrained from such firm and decisive action, in spite of its deep historical and economic ties with the country. It is therefore now time for your government, Mr. Prime Minister, to take a stronger stand, particularly in view of the principles invoked in the Kishida Doctrine and the regional threat to stability and security, and indeed Japan’s interests in the country, against the unacceptable denial of human rights and dignity, peace and freedom of the people of Myanmar by the Myanmar’s self-appointed military government, the State Administration Council (SAC).
Lay Kay Kaw, a town in Karen State symbolized Japan’s peacebuilding and development efforts in Myanmar after years of conflict, but now lies in ruins since the coup took place. It has become the focus of a massive assault, including airstrikes, by the Myanmar junta, as documented by the Karen Peace Network in their recent report. You must be aware of the efforts made by ODA (Official Development Assistance, an agency of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs under your government) to build this village, now destroyed by the Myanmar military. The junta has trampled on the goodwill of Japan. We believe the government of Japan should react.
In its 1 February 2021 statement, the government of Japan described the coup as an “internal situation.” APHR contends that the illegal junta poses the greatest threat to the sovereignty of the Myanmar people, acting as a brutal force of occupation, throwing the country into chaos with potentially destabilizing effects beyond its borders, and committing crimes against humanity. These are not internal affairs, but matters that should concern all of us.
Therefore, we would like recommend and request that:
- The Japanese Government should coordinate with democratic allies such as the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, Australia, and Canada in taking further concrete actions to put stronger pressure on the Myanmar military to immediately stop its use of force and violence against the people of Myanmar;
- Tokyo should place targeted sanctions against SAC leaders, their families and military-owned entities;
- in addition to sanctions, as an avowed advocate for democracy in the region, Japan should also push other governments to support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar;
- Japan should increase its emergency humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar people affected by the complete chaos created by the junta in their country and channel it through trusted non-state actors including those of ethnic group organizations;
- Japan should engage with the National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, and to extend further support for Myanmar nationals living in Japan regarding, among other issues, their passport and visa concerns;
- Japan should work with Myanmar’s neighbors, including Thailand and India, to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian aid to Myanmar, with the help of local civil society organizations and international NGOs.
Myanmar is a crucial geo-political crossroads that is seen as a theater for the interests of big powers like China, the USA, and now Russia, with its deepening ties to the junta. This is yet another reason for Japan to turn its attention in a far more concerted, strategic and decisive manner, particularly in view of your new doctrine and security strategy.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
Japanese Parliamentary Association for Supporting Democratization of Myanmar