Friends of Japanese filmmaker detained in Myanmar denounce situation

Tokyo, Oct 26 (EFE).- A group of activists and people close to Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota, sentenced in Myanmar to 10 years in prison, denounced Wednesday the situation in which he finds himself and demanded his release along with that of other detainees in the country.


“Kubota is in the same prison I was in and in solitary confinement, and we know that the situation in this prison is getting worse,” freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi said Wednesday, in a media appearance at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.


Kitazumi, a Japanese reporter who was also arrested in Myanmar in April 2021, just three months after the military coup while covering a protest in Yangon, said Kubota is in a cell just 2.5 meters by 4.5 meters and for now, cannot receive provisions from the Japanese government or his family.

Camera: KIMIMASA MAYAMA


“The hardest thing is to stay optimistic when you’re in solitary confinement. When you don’t talk to anyone for days, it’s very hard to stay positive,” said Kitazumi, who was then facing a three-year prison sentence for spreading “fake news” and supporting the civil disobedience movement. He was released weeks later thanks to the mediation of the Japanese government.


The journalist’s statements come after a Myanmar court sentenced Kubota to 10 years in prison in early October for inciting dissent against the army and violating national telecommunications laws.


Kubota was arrested in July while he was recording protests against the military junta in the streets of Yangon, where he had traveled as part of the production of a documentary.


“He hasn’t done anything to blame him ethically. He went to Myanmar to film a short documentary and after briefly filming a demonstration he was arrested,” Kitazumi said.


Teppei Kasa, head of programs for the Asian division of Human Rights Watch, said the Japanese government is not doing enough for Kubota’s release or to improve the general situation in Myanmar.


“It’s been two years since the military coup and the Japanese government has been doing the same thing over and over again to no avail. They should do everything possible for the release not only of Kubota but of the rest of the detainees,” Kasai said.


The head of the organization advocated the application of sanctions against the leaders of the junta and companies with ties to them, as well as the freezing of non-humanitarian programs in the country and international coordination with other countries.


The Feb. 1, 2021 coup plunged Myanmar into a political, economic, and social crisis, with clashes between junta forces and opponents, and increased repression.


According to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, more than 2,100 people have died due to the repression of authorities, while almost 15,000 have been arbitrarily detained. EFE
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