Crime & Justice

Japanese filmmaker detained in Myanmar tells government he’s fine

Tokyo, Aug 23 (EFE).- Japan’s ambassador to Myanmar spoke with Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota, who said he was in good health after being arrested in Yangon end-July while filming a documentary, according to a foreign ministry official, Kyodo news agency reported Tuesday.

The conversation between Kubota, whose trial began earlier this month, and Ambassador Ichiro Maruyama is the first direct contact between the Japanese filmmaker and a member of the Japanese government since his arrest.

Kubota, in his 20s, had traveled to Yangon on July 13 and was arrested on the 30th while filming protests against the junta in the city, the biggest in Myanmar.

The independent filmmaker had entered the country on a tourist visa and has been charged under Section 505-A and under the immigration law 13-1, according to a statement by Myanmar’s military junta.

Violating the immigration law carries a maximum sentence of two years, while the article 505-A is related to inciting dissent against the military, which is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Both the laws have been widely used by Myanmar’s military junta after it seized power in a coup in February 2021, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and subsequently jailing and cracking down on the opposition.

After getting to know of the arrest, the Japanese government urged Myanmar authorities to release Kubota as soon as possible.

Journalists have been one of the main targets of the military junta since it seized power.

More than 100 journalists were imprisoned at one point after the coup while independent media have faced persecution and closure.

In April 2021, just three months after the coup, the police arrested another Japanese journalist who was covering a protest in Yangon.

Freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi, 46, was charged with spreading false news, which is punishable by up to three years in prison, but was released a few weeks later after diplomatic mediation by the Japanese government.

The coup on plunged Myanmar into a political, economic and social crisis, with clashes between the junta forces and opponents and an increase in repression.

At least 2,229 people have died as a result of violent repression by security forces, while 15,206 people have been arbitrarily arrested, according to data collected by the nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. EFE


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