UN expert urges Japan to sanction Myanmar junta

Andrews was speaking after an official visit to Japan to speak with government and business officials – Copyright VATICAN MEDIA/AFP Handout

Japan should sanction Myanmar as it has done for Russia over its Ukraine invasion, a United Nations expert said Thursday, slamming the junta’s “barbarism and oppression”.

Thomas Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, also urged Japan to immediately end a training programme for Myanmar troops, warning it was tarnishing the image of the country’s military.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February 2021, sparking fighting across swathes of the country and tanking the economy.

An air strike on a village in a resistance hotspot this month killed at least 170 people, according to media and locals.

“The human rights situation in Myanmar is horrific and getting worse,” Andrews told reporters in Tokyo at the end of a trip to meet Japanese officials and businesses.

“I urge Japan to consider joining all other G7 countries in imposing targeted economic sanctions on the Myanmar military and its key sources of revenue, just as it is doing in response to the crisis in Ukraine,” he said.

Sanctions against the junta “would weaken its capacity to attack its people,” he added, accusing the military of “barbarism and oppression”.

Japan halted new aid projects after the coup, although existing programmes were not affected.

The defence ministry said in September it would not accept new recruits into a programme that trains Myanmar military personnel.

But Andrews criticised the decision to allow soldiers already in the programme to complete their training.

“They are receiving combat training and learning how to be effective soldiers and commanders” and will return “to a military responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes,” he said.

“So long as the defence ministry continues to train Myanmar soldiers, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces will be linked to a brutal military regime.”

– ‘Irreparable harm’ –

Japan has longstanding ties with Myanmar and was a major provider of aid, as well as a source of investment, before the coup.

Andrews said he had urged Japan to redirect money that would have gone into new aid programmes toward funding food rations for Rohingya refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Around a million Rohingya are in the country, most of them arriving after a 2017 military crackdown by Myanmar that is now subject to a UN genocide investigation.

Food rations were already cut by 17 percent last month, but now face being reduced an additional 20 percent, Andrews said, risking “irreparable harm to Rohingya children”.

Some Japanese businesses, including drinks giant Kirin, have exited Myanmar, but Andrews said others continue to cooperate with partners that serve the junta, or have sold operations to junta-linked firms.

The former US congressman and Myanmar campaigner said the international community as a whole was “failing the people of Myanmar”.

“The fact is, conditions are deteriorating quickly and it means that we need to reassess our actions.”

UN expert urges Japan to sanction Myanmar junta
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