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Myanmar residents in Japan protest military coup in home country

Residents from Myanmar living in Japan protest the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi in front of the United Nations University in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Feb. 1, 2021. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

Myanmar citizens living in Japan have been voicing anger and concern over a military coup and the detention of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in their home country.

    A group of Myanmar nationals held a protest calling for international support in front of the United Nations University in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, on Feb. 1., the day of the military coup. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, about 700 people participated in the demonstration. Protesters raised pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi, and demanded that the United Nations and other parties approach the armed forces to push for the release of the leader.

    Thant Zin, 53, an employee at an eatery in the capital's Shinjuku Ward who joined the protest, said, "The country has developed and come this far thanks to democratization, but the way things are, it will go back to its original state. What is the military thinking?"

    A 31-year-old who has applied for refugee status in Japan expressed sorrow by saying, "We had no freedom under military rule. I thought that I could return home if the Suu Kyi government continued ..."

    Than Swe, 58, of the Union of Myanmar Citizen Association, said, "The only leader who can bring the country together is Suu Kyi. I'd like the Japanese government to also demand that the military release her."

    A 58-year-old who manages a Myanmar restaurant in the capital's Takadanobaba neighborhood -- home to a growing community of residents from Myanmar -- commented, "As a leader, she has worked hard for all the people in the country, so it's extremely unfortunate (that she has been detained). Everyone is sad about the news." Although the individual has been able to contact relatives in Myanmar, and heard that there have been no uprisings, they said, "I don't know what's going to happen. Although I can only watch on, I'd like to see a peaceful solution. This is also the wish of Suu Kyi. Justice should prevail in the end."

    A public relations representative of a Japanese firm that has a local base in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, said that after the coup, they were informed by employees in the country that "there seems to be no danger at present." Due to poor phone and internet connections in the country, the representative has been communicating with employees via a smartphone calling app. "They have apparently been instructed to refrain from going outdoors by the Japanese Embassy over there, and we are currently gathering information in Myanmar as well."

    Thithi Lay, 60, professor at Josai University and local "ambassador" of the eastern Japan city of Tsurugashima, Saitama Prefecture -- the host town for the Myanmarese delegation during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games -- who has lived in Japan for a long time, said, "Once such a thing happens in the midst of economic development, countries overseas, including Japan, will be hesitant about investing in Myanmar. This is not good for the stability and economic growth of the country."

    Hiromi Yokoyama, 69, chairperson of the Tsurugashima city international exchange association, which engages in sending stationery collected through donations to Myanmar, commented, "There's all sorts of information, and I don't know what I can view as correct. I can only hope that the people I've been involved with so far are safe."

    A 56-year-old monk who was dispatched from Myanmar to the World Peace Pagoda, Japan's only fully Myanmarese-style temple located in the southwestern Japan city of Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, commented, "I don't know what's going on in Myanmar, but I'm praying that it's peaceful."

    The pagoda was built in 1958 by the then Burmese Buddhist federation and local volunteers to commemorate soldiers who had fallen in Burma (present-day Myanmar) during World War II. A large number of monks from Myanmar were also invited to attend a Patthana recitation ceremony at the World Peace Pagoda, which prayed for peace and security and was held on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and other occasions.

    (Japanese original by Jun Kaneko, Yoshitake Matsuura and Tomoko Igarashi, City News Department; Yuki Nakagawa, Saitama Bureau; and Hiroya Miyagi, Kyushu News Department)

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