TOKYO (Reuters) – A Japanese journalist recently freed from a Myanmar jail urged his government on Friday to take “concrete action” against the military regime there, including reviewing its development aid.
Myanmar authorities arrested Yuki Kitazumi, a freelance reporter who was covering the unrest that engulfed the country after a military takeover on Feb. 1, and charged him with spreading false information.
Kitazumi, who lived in Myanmar for several years and used to run a media company in the main city of Yangon, was freed after negotiations led by the Japanese ambassador. The journalist returned to Japan last week.
“I was freed thanks to the backing of the Japanese government but it’s not like that has resolved the problem,” Kitazumi told a news conference in Tokyo, referring to Myanmar’s turmoil.
Myanmar’s security forces have killed more than 800 people since a wave of protests broke out after the military overthrew an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group says.
The group says more than 4,000 people have been detained, including 20 who have been sentenced to death.
Kitazumi said Japan enjoyed strong influence over Myanmar owing to its historic ties and appealed to his government to take “concrete action” to help resolve the confrontation between the pro-democracy movement and the generals.
“I’d like Japan to use the strength it used to free me to resolve the problem in Myanmar,” he said.
Japan has been a big investor and source of technical help and development aid for Myanmar’s semi-civilian governments in the decade of political reform that followed the end of the last era of military rule in 2011.
Asked about comments by Japan’s foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, that Tokyo could cut all development aid if the situation did not improve, Kitazumi said that cutting some projects would send a “strong message” and that a review of Japan’s engagement was necessary.
Kitazumi’s media company used produce video content, from news to movie trailers, and trained journalists with emphasis on free speech.
Before his work in Yangon, Kitazumi was a journalist with Japan’s largest business daily, the Nikkei.
(Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Robert Birsel)