An international rights group has urged Japan to immediately halt its training for Myanmar military officers and cut ties with the junta, citing their alleged involvement in abuses in conflict areas of the coup-hit Southeast Asian country.
Human Rights Watch filed the demand in a press release recently as the Myanmar junta shows no signs of freeing civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected officials detained in the military's February 2021 takeover of government.
"Myanmar graduates of Japan's military training program are serving in conflict areas where Myanmar military abuses are rampant," said Teppei Kasai, Asia Division program officer of the nongovernmental organization.
The NGO suggested that the Japanese government investigate whether program participants have been involved in operations violating the laws of war.
It cited the case of Brig. Gen. Tin Soe, a former trainee who from August 2021 to July 2022 was based in the Eastern Command headquarters, which oversees forces in the Shan and Kayah states in eastern Myanmar and whose forces are blamed for a massacre of civilians and other atrocities.
Then-Col. Tin Soe received training at the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force Staff College from August 2016 to March 2017, the NGO said, citing a Defense Ministry document and information from the All Japan Defense Association.
Since 2015, the ministry has been hosting Myanmar cadets and officers for training. Even after the coup, the ministry accepted two cadets and two officers in 2021 and did the same in 2022, according to Human Rights Watch.
"As a country that wants to be recognized for promoting human rights, Japan should stand up for the rights of Myanmar's people and cut defense ties with the junta," Kasai said.
The junta, led by army chief Min Aung Hlaing, has killed more than 2,100 peaceful demonstrators and other citizens since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based monitoring group.