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Open Letter: Japan’s leadership urgently needed at the UN Security Council to stop Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes as Myanmar faces man-made and natural disasters

May 29th, 2023  •  Author:   239 Organizations  •  13 minute read
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The Honorable Fumio Kishida
Prime Minister of Japan
Cabinet Office, 1-6-1 Nagata-cho,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

CC:
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary, The Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Kimihiro Ishikane
Members of the UN Security Council

29 May 2023

Open Letter
Re: Japan’s leadership urgently needed at the UN Security Council to stop Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes as Myanmar faces man-made and natural disasters

Dear Prime Minister Kishida,

We, 239 Myanmar, regional and international organizations are writing to urge you and the Government of Japan to assume a greater leadership role at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to address the further deteriorating multifaceted crises in Myanmar. As a member of the UNSC and a major donor to Myanmar, we believe that the Government of Japan is well-placed to work with its allies on the Council to develop a principled, human rights-based response to put an end to Myanmar military junta’s atrocity crimes.

Since the attempted coup, the Myanmar military has killed over 3,500 people and arrested over 22,700, including two Japanese journalists, who have been released. Many unjustly remain in detention. Since the UNSC resolution was adopted, at least 704 people have been killed. In 2022, Myanmar ranked among the countries that saw the most intense levels of violence and conflict deaths, next to Ukraine, and recorded the highest number of violence targeting civilians globally.

The UN conservatively estimates that 1.5 million people have been displaced since the Myanmar military’s attempted coup. As category five Cyclone Mocha advanced towards Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Myanmar military persisted in its attacks against civilians residing in regions along the cyclone’s trajectory.

As evacuations began in Rakhine State, Rohingya were willfully neglected by the junta, and aid to the Rohingya community has been blocked. In the cyclone’s aftermath, hundreds of people are dead or missing. It is vital that Japan takes immediate measures to respond to the military’s breach of international human rights and humanitarian laws and ensure peace and security in the region and beyond.

In your address to leaders of the world during the 77th UN General Assembly, you spoke of “listening not only to the big voices but also being attentive to the small voices” and that you “intend to take action to strengthen the rule of law in the international community” as a non-permanent member of the UNSC – a vital position to maintain world peace and security which Japan holds until 2024.

We urge you to turn these words into action by building on the December 2022 UNSC resolution on Myanmar and adopt concrete measures to hold the Myanmar military accountable for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Japan’s ODA and businesses: Japan must first end its complicity in Myanmar’s crimes

Just as the UNSC resolution has done little to curb the military’s atrocities, the military have remained impervious to Japan’s statements of concern. Statements urging the military to stop the violence have little impact when Japan has yet to suspend all Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects that are currently being implemented by the Myanmar junta or stop Japanese businesses from funding the Myanmar military’s atrocities.

If Japan is to assert its leadership as Asia’s rights-respecting democracy on the world stage, it must first end its complicity in the Myanmar military’s atrocity crimes. Ties to the Myanmar military have only diminished Japan’s reputation as a leading democracy in Asia and undermined Japan’s standing in the eyes of Myanmar people who have looked to Japan for support to end the Myanmar military’s attempt to rule with violence.

Since the ODA program began, Japan has cumulatively provided approximately 1.4 trillion yen (US $9.6 billion) in loan assistance, 360 billion yen (US $2.5 billion) in grant aid, and 100 billion yen (US $690 million) in technical assistance to Myanmar as of November 2021. Japan was the biggest provider of ODA to Myanmar before the attempted coup. It has yet to fully utilize this as a leverage, despite the Rohingya genocide in 2017 and the Myanmar military’s grave human rights violations since its attempted coup.

Rather than prioritizing human rights and democracy, Japan has focused on development in Myanmar, providing opportunities for Japanese businesses, including partnering with the Myanmar military conglomerates. Despite vehement civil society calls, Japan has yet to conduct an investigation to respond to claims that its ODA has benefited the military junta financially.

As a result, businesses like the Yokogawa Bridge Corporation have transferred US $1 million to military-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) for a bridge construction project backed by Japan’s ODA through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) following the attempted coup.

Projects funded by Japan’s ODA have also directly served to benefit Myanmar military’s strategic interests, for example in the case of East-West Economic Corridor (EWC) Improvement project in Karen State, which ultimately fueled conflict along the Asia Highway (part of the EWC).

Myanmar military has also misused Japanese development aid for military purposes. It used Japan-funded passenger ships meant for civilian use for military purposes to transport troops as it committed war crimes in Rakhine State and displayed a blatant lack of regard for the Japanese Government’s inquiry into the matter.

Japanese businesses in the telecommunications sector, as well as real-estate development sectors, continue to actively partner with the Myanmar military and entities controlled by the military junta, against UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines For Multinational Enterprises. Meanwhile, demands by civil society for ENEOS and other partners involved in the oil and gas sector to responsibly disengage, with transparency and through consultation with local communities and civil society stakeholders, have been ignored.

It is vital that Japan immediately suspends all ODA currently being implemented under the control of the Myanmar military. It must begin to work closely with the National Unity Government (NUG), formed on the basis of the 2020 general elections with the popular support of the people of Myanmar, as well as Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs) and Myanmar civil society to effectively support the will of the people of Myanmar to establish a federal democracy. It must divert its support towards humanitarian aid, particularly towards frontline local humanitarian actors, including community-based organizations along the ethnic borderlands.

The Government of Japan must end its complicity in grave human rights violations in Myanmar by halting its business with the military junta and its conglomerates.

Breach of Japan’s democratic principle: Japan’s Special Envoy endorsing illegal election and political figures acceptance of Medal from war criminal Min Aung Hlaing

In addition to Japan’s continued business links with the Myanmar military, Japan’s training of military troops, and its use of quiet diplomacy reliant on a “special relationship” with the Myanmar military has abetted the further entrenchment of the military’s culture of impunity.

It certainly does not help Japan’s image as a rights-respecting democratic country when the current vice president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a former Prime Minister, Taro Aso, alongside a former posts and telecommunications minister, who also serves as chairman of the Japan Myanmar Association, Hideo Watanabe, receive a medal from international criminal Min Aung Hlaing for “development, peace and prosperity of Myanmar.” By staying silent on such matters, Japan further legitimizes an illegal Myanmar military that is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including massacres and bombing and killing of children.

The Myanmar military junta is an illegitimate entity that has attempted an illegal coup and stands accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. We are gravely concerned of the Japanese Government’s lack of a clear public stance in opposition to the junta’s proposed illegal election, which has been further confounded by statements made by your government’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, Yohei Sasakawa, in support of the military’s sham elections. Japan must unequivocally stand with the people of Myanmar by denouncing the junta’s violent attempts to assert its legitimacy, including through its plan to hold an election illegally.

Myanmar military’s fierce shelling of the “Peace Town” built with the support of the Nippon Foundation for refugees returning to Karen State, is an indictment of the military’s commitment to peace and democracy in Myanmar. The  military also killed a child as they raided Ma Gyi Gan Village, Myaing Township in Magway Region on 18 April 2023, destroying civilian property, medical equipment and burnt down the village hospital built with support from JICA.

Tangible action against the Myanmar military: new UN Security Council Resolution

As you have reflected on Japan’s own experience with war at the site of G7 in Hiroshima alongside world leaders this month, we hope you will also think of the people in Myanmar who are currently experiencing war, enduring atrocities by a military with a history that ties Myanmar and Japan together.

The Myanmar military junta’s total disregard for the Security Council Resolution 2669, which was adopted last year, shows a need for a new resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in order to enforce the junta’s compliance. In July, UK will assume the presidency of the UNSC. As one of the Asian countries on the UNSC, Japan must work closely with the UK – the “penholder” on Myanmar at the UNSC – towards a new resolution that includes targeted sanctions and an arms embargo against the military and a referral of the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

We look to your decisive leadership in holding the junta accountable through a Chapter VII resolution on Myanmar adopted by the UNSC.

Sincerely,

Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice; [email protected]
Yuka Kiguchi, Mekong Watch; [email protected]

The Open Letter is signed by 239 Myanmar, regional and international organizations, including 41 organizations who have chosen not to disclose their names.

  1. 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
  2. Action Against Myanmar Military Coup (Sydney)
  3. Action Committee for Democracy Development (Coalition of 14 grassroots networks)
  4. Active Youths Kalaymyo
  5. Africa Japan Forum
  6. Ah Nah Podcast – conversations with Myanmar
  7. La. Ka (12) Hta Khwe. Primary Education Student Union
  8. All Arakan Students’ & Youth’ Congress
  9. All Arakan Youth Organization Network
  10. All Burma Democratic Front in New Zealand
  11. All Religions Strike Column
  12. All Young Burmese League (AYBL)
  13. Alternative Solutions for Rural Communities (ASORCOM)
  14. ALTSEAN-Burma
  15. Anti Myanmar Military Dictatorship Network (Australia)
  16. APPIKA
  17. Arakan CSO Network
  18. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  19. Asia-Japan Women’s Resource Center
  20. Asian Community Center 21
  21. Asian Cultural Forum on Development Foundation (ACFOD)
  22. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  23. Asian Health Institute
  24. Assistance Association of Political Prisoners
  25. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  26. Association Suisse Birmanie (ASB)
  27. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  28. Auckland Kachin Community NZ
  29. Auckland Zomi Community
  30. Aung Myay Thar Zan Education Schools Strike Column
  31. Aung Pin Lae Main Strike Column
  32. Australian Burma society Inc.
  33. Australian Coalition for Democracy in Burma
  34. AWDO (Nagphe)
  35. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organisation
  36. Blooming Padauk
  37. Burma Action Ireland
  38. Burma Campaign UK
  39. Burma Human Rights Network
  40. Burma Support
  41. Burmese American Democratic Alliance
  42. Burmese Community Group (Manawatu, NZ)
  43. Burmese Community South Australia
  44. Burmese Community Support Group (Sydney)
  45. Burmese Rohingya Organization UK
  46. Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
  47. Burmese Women’s Union
  48. Campaign for a New Myanmar
  49. CAN-Myanmar
  50. CDM Support Team Mandalay (CSTM)
  51. Chan Mya Thar Si Township People Strike Column
  52. Chin Community of Auckland
  53. Chin Human Rights Organization
  54. Cooperative University Student Strike Column
  55. Creative Home
  56. CRPH & NUG Supporters Ireland
  57. CRPH Funding Ireland
  58. Daung Sit Thi
  59. Doh Atu – Ensemble pour le Myanmar
  60. Education Family (Anti – Fascists Education Strike Columns Coordination Committee )
  61. Educational Initiatives Prague
  62. Equality Myanmar
  63. Ethnic Youth General Strike Committee
  64. Falam Chin Community South Australia
  65. Federal Corner Magway Region
  66. Federal FM – Mandalay
  67. Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
  68. Freedom and Labor Action Group
  69. Free Rohingya Coalition
  70. Friends of the Earth Japan
  71. Future Light Center
  72. Future Light Women and Child Protection Organization
  73. Future Thanlwin
  74. General Strike Committee of Nationalities – GSCN
  75. Generation Wave
  76. Global Myanmar Spring Revolution (GMSR)
  77. Grass-root People
  78. Help Myanmar (USA)
  79. Human Rights Educators Network
  80. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  81. Human Rights Now
  82. Info Birmanie
  83. Institute for Asian Democracy
  84. International Association, Myanmar-Switzerland (IAMS)
  85. International Campaign for the Rohingya
  86. Japan Campaign to Ban Landmines
  87. Japan Tropical Forest Action Network (JTAN)
  88. Justice For Myanmar
  89. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  90. Kayaw Women Association
  91. Karen Human Rights Group
  92. Karen Swedish Community (KSC)
  93. Karen Women’s Organization
  94. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  95. Karenni Society New Zealand
  96. Keng Tung Youth
  97. Kyaukse University Students’ Union
  98. LGBTIQ Strike of Mandalay
  99. Maha Aung Myay Township People Collective Strike Column
  100. Mandalar University Student Strike Column
  101. Mandalay Alliance Strike Collective Column
  102. Mandalay Based People Strike Column
  103. Mandalay Civil Society Organizations
  104. Mandalay Engineer Group
  105. Mandalay Engineer United Force
  106. Mandalay University Student Alumni Union
  107. Mandalay Wholesale Strike Column
  108. Mandalay Youth Strike Column
  109. Matu Chin Community South Australia
  110. Medical Family – Mandalay
  111. Mekong Watch
  112. Metta Campaign Mandalay
  113. MIIT Student Strike Column
  114. Min Hla farmers Group
  115. Minbu farmers Group
  116. Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc. (MPI)
  117. Mizo Community South Australia
  118. Mon State Development Center
  119. MRYA-Revolution Core Group
  120. Muslim Youth Union
  121. Mya Taung Strike Column
  122. Myanmar Accountability Project
  123. Myanmar Action Group Denmark
  124. Myanmar anti-military coup movement in New Zealand
  125. Myanmar Campaign Network
  126. Myanmar Community Group Christchurch New Zealand
  127. Myanmar Community Group Dunedin New Zealand
  128. Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS)
  129. Myanmar Diaspora Group Finland
  130. Myanmar Engineers – New Zealand
  131. Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
  132. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  133. Myanmar Railway, Region (3) CDm Strike Column
  134. Myanmar Students’ Union in New Zealand
  135. Myanmar’s Community Coffs Harbour
  136. Myaung Education Network
  137. Myaung Medical Team နွေဦးရောင်နီဆေးအဖွဲ့
  138. Nelson Myanmar Community Group New Zealand
  139. Netherlands-Myanmar Solidarity Platform
  140. Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma)
  141. Never Again Coalition
  142. New Zealand Doctors for NUG
  143. New Zealand Karen Association
  144. New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
  145. No 7 State High School Alumni Strike Column
  146. No Business With Genocide
  147. Nayapara Rohingya Refugee Youth Committee
  148. New Rehmonnya Federated Force (NRFF)
  149. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  150. Overseas Mon Association. New Zealand
  151. Padauk
  152. Pan Pa Wash People Strike Column
  153. Peace and Culture Foundation
  154. Phayagye Peace Strike Column
  155. Private Pre-school Teachers Association
  156. Progressive Voice
  157. Pwintphyu Development Organisation
  158. Pyi Gyi Ta Gon Strike
  159. Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
  160. Rohingya Community in Japan (RCJ)
  161. Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
  162. Sangha Samaga Strike Column
  163. Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
  164. Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
  165. Sein Pan Strike Column
  166. Shan Community (New Zealand)
  167. Shan MATA
  168. SINAPIS Archdiocese of Osaka
  169. Sisters 2 Sisters
  170. Southern Dragon Myanmar
  171. Southern Youth Development Organization
  172. Strike Column of Representatives of Arbitrarily Arrested People
  173. Strike Column of Teachers from Universities and Degree Colleges of Mandalay
  174. Suomi-Myanmar
  175. Support Group for Democracy in Myanmar (the Netherlands)
  176. Swedish Burma Committee
  177. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  178. Ta’ang Legal Aid
  179. Taekwando Sport Association
  180. Tanintharyi MATA
  181. Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB)
  182. Thapaynyo News Letter
  183. The Ladies
  184. The Swedish Foundation for Human Rights
  185. S. Campaign for Burma
  186. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  187. Victoria Myanmar Youth (VMY)
  188. Western Australia Myanmar Community
  189. Western Australia Myanmar Democratic Network
  190. Women Activists Myanmar (WAM)
  191. Women Advocacy Coalition – Myanmar
  192. Women’s League of Burma
  193. Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace (WAM)
  194. Women’s Democratic Club, Femin
  195. Youths for Community-Myaung
  196. ဒို့မြေကွန်ရက် – LIOH
  197. ပွင့်ဖြူလယ်ယာမြေကွန်ရက်
  198. မျိုးဆက် – Generations

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