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Rights group asks Japan to stop training Myanmar army

HRW says it is 'mind-boggling' for Japan to accept cadets while Myanmar military commits crimes against humanity
Rights group asks Japan to stop training Myanmar army

A man is reunited with his family members outside the Insein Prison following his release in Yangon on Oct. 18 after authorities announced more than 5,000 people jailed for protesting against a February coup that ousted Myanmar's civilian government would be released. (Photo by AFP)

Published: December 20, 2021 07:45 AM GMT
Updated: December 20, 2021 07:57 AM GMT

International rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the Japanese government to wind up a military pact that provides extensive academic and military training to the Myanmar army.

“It’s mind-boggling that Japan is providing military training to Myanmar cadets at the same time as its armed forces are committing crimes against humanity against Myanmar’s people,” Teppei Kasai, Asia program officer at Human Rights Watch, said in a Dec. 20 statement.

“The Japanese government should immediately suspend the program and any other ties with Myanmar’s military.” 

HRW said the National Defense Academy of Japan was hosting eight cadets from Myanmar as of Dec. 10. The program provides extensive academic and military training, including combat and arms training, to the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, that staged a coup on Feb. 1 in the Southeast Asian country.

On April 14, a Japanese Defense Ministry official admitted that Japan had been accepting cadets from Myanmar since 2015 under the Self-Defense Forces Act, which allows training to foreign nationals in Japan’s military facilities with the approval of the defense minister.

The February coup saw the arrest of civilian leaders including Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The army put the nation under a one-year “state of emergency.” Since then, the military has killed more than 1,300 people and detained over 10,000, HRW said.

The Myanmar military has for many years committed summary killings, rape, indiscriminate shelling, torture and arson, among other war crimes

In August 2017, two years after the training program began, the Myanmar military carried out mass atrocities on the ethnic Rohingya in Rakhine state, forcing more than 740,000 to flee, the rights group noted.

At least 600,000 Rohingya in Myanmar are confined to camps “under conditions that amount to the crime against humanity of apartheid,” HRW said.

“The Myanmar military has for many years committed summary killings, rape, indiscriminate shelling, torture and arson, among other war crimes,” the statement said.

Japan has criticized the coup and sought the release of elected government officials including Suu Kyi. It joined 11 other nations to condemn the Tatmadaw’s use of military force against “unarmed civilians” on March 28.

Japan’s parliament passed a resolution in June that condemned the coup and called for “swift restoration of the democratic political system.”

In March, Australia, a major defense partner of Japan, suspended military cooperation with Myanmar due to the deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters.

“Japan should follow suit with Australia and immediately cut ties with the Myanmar military,” Kasai said. “Japan should not be supporting and endorsing Myanmar’s extremely abusive armed forces by training Tatmadaw soldiers.”

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