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Japan envoy speaks with filmmaker held in Myanmar: govt. official

Protesters walk through a market with posters of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi at Kamayut township in Yangon, Myanmar, on April 8, 2021. (AP Photo, File)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's ambassador to Myanmar has spoken by phone with a Japanese documentary filmmaker detained in the country and confirmed that he is in good health, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said Monday.

    Toru Kubota was detained in Yangon on July 30 while filming a protest against Myanmar's ruling military. He has been held in prison over his alleged involvement in the protest and charged with sedition and violating the immigration law.

    During the phone conversation between Kubota and Ambassador Ichiro Maruyama, the first direct contact the Japanese filmmaker could make with the Japanese government since his detention, he said he has not been treated improperly, according to the official.

    Maruyama told Kubota, whose trial began earlier this month, that the Japanese government will help him by introducing a lawyer and offering other assistance.

    While the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar requested the military government to allow a meeting with Kubota, the junta rejected it, citing COVID-19 restrictions and other reasons, the senior official said.

    Japan has urged Myanmar to release Kubota as soon as possible. But the military government has said the decision about him will be made by the relevant court.

    Kubota entered Myanmar last month from neighboring Thailand on a tourist visa and contacted protesters regarding where they would gather for a demonstration.

    Myanmar has been under military rule since a coup in February 2021 that toppled the democratically elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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