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Myanmar residents in Japan reenact military crackdown on Tokyo street

Citizens of Myanmar in Japan act out the parts of Myanmar soldiers and demonstrators during a protest in Tokyo's Toshima Ward on April 18, 2021. Those playing the soldiers, carrying model guns, pretended to kick and shoot at the protesters, conveying the harsh situation in their country. (Mainichi/Yuki Miyatake)

TOKYO -- Just over 2 1/2 months after the Myanmar military executed a coup d'etat with crackdowns on demonstrators that have left an increasing number of citizens dead, people from the country residing in Japan are using street acting to portray the oppressive situation in their home country and inform people in Japan of the plight of their compatriots.

    One such play was recently staged in the early afternoon on a weekend in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo's Toshima Ward. Acting out the scenes were students and workers from Myanmar in Japan. Their idea was to protest through an easily understandable visual representation of the violence inflicted by the Myanmar military on people in the country.

    The participants donned helmets and military clothing for the military roles, pointing prop guns at and striking those acting out the part of demonstrators, and casting off the hand of a woman holding up three fingers as a sign of resistance, in a realistic portrayal of the traumatic situation. Several shoppers in the area turned to watch the group, though few stopped.

    One 35-year-old man from Myanmar who played the part of a demonstrator came to Japan 16 years ago, hoping for a better life after feeling he was in danger due to his participation in pro-democracy protests in Myanmar in 2007. He was a technical trainee at building demolition sites in the Tokyo metropolitan area, among other places. Due to the poor environment, however, his health deteriorated and he became unable to work, but because he doesn't know what would happen if he returned to his home country, he is applying for refugee status in Japan.

    The man's friends in Myanmar send him video footage via social media and other avenues on virtually a daily basis of the violence the military has inflicted on citizens.

    "The way the military is going about things, not paying attention to the public, cannot be permitted. We want Japanese people to take an interest in the issue too, and help Myanmar," he said.

    (Japanese original by Yuki Miyatake, Tokyo Photo Group)

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