(Tokyo) – The Japanese government should sever ties with the Burmese military and immediately suspend an overseas military studies program involving Burmese cadets, Human Rights Watch said today. On February 1, 2021, the Burmese army, known as Tatmadaw, staged a coup and installed a junta that overturned democratic elections.
As of December 10, the Japan National Defense Academy, a Defense Ministry facility, still accommodates eight Myanmar cadets, according to a Defense Ministry official. Through the program, trainees participate in an extensive academic and military training program, including combat and weapons training.
“It is mind-boggling that Japan is providing military training to Myanmar cadets as its armed forces commit crimes against humanity against the people of Myanmar,” said Teppei Kasai, Asia program manager at Human Rights Watch. “The Japanese government should immediately suspend the program and all other links with the Burmese military.”
During a Foreign Affairs Committee session on April 14, Defense Ministry official Masahiro Kawasaki said Japan has been accepting cadets from Myanmar since 2015 under section 100 of the Myanmar Law. self-defense forces, which authorizes the training and education of foreign nationals in the field of defense. Ministry facilities, including the academy, with the approval of the Minister of Defense.
The program allows Japan to show how the Japanese Self-Defense Forces operate under “strict civilian control” and cultivate “relationships” between Self-Defense Force personnel and students, while increasing “mutual understanding” and understanding. “Trust” between Japan and the countries of the students. Kawasaki said. He added that Japan would address concerns about the program while closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar.
The February coup led to the arrest of civilian leaders of national and state governments, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and the announcement of a one-year “state of emergency”. Since then, the junta’s military and police forces have killed more than 1,300 people and detained more than 10,000. Junta-controlled courts have sentenced hundreds to death to prison terms and 75 people, including 2 children, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners. Widespread and systematic killings, torture and sexual violence constitute crimes against humanity.
In August 2017, two years after the start of Japan’s training program, the Burmese military led by the Commander-in-Chief, Senator General Min Aung Hlaing, committed mass atrocities against the Rohingya ethnic group in the state of Rakhine, forcing more than 740,000 people to flee. At least 600,000 Rohingya who remained in Myanmar are confined to camps and villages under the custody of local authorities and security forces, in conditions amounting to the crime against humanity of apartheid. And in protracted armed conflicts with armed ethnic groups, the Burmese military has for many years committed summary killings, rapes, indiscriminate bombing, torture and arson, among other war crimes.
Since the coup, Tokyo has called for an end to the violence and the release of elected government officials, including Aung San Suu Kyi. On March 28, the Japanese Defense Ministry issued a joint statement with 11 other countries criticizing the use of military force by the Tatmadaw against “unarmed civilians.” The Japanese government halted new non-humanitarian Official Development Assistance (ODA) projects earlier in 2021, while allowing existing aid projects to continue. The Diet adopted a resolution in June condemning the coup and calling for a “rapid restoration of the democratic political system”.
In March, Australia, one of Japan’s main defense partners, suspended military cooperation with Myanmar due to the military’s deadly crackdown on anti-coup protesters. The defense cooperation program was limited to areas unrelated to combat, such as English training.
“Japan should follow Australia’s lead and cut ties with the Burmese military immediately,” Kasai said. “Japan should not support and endorse Myanmar’s hugely abusive armed forces by training Tatmadaw soldiers. “