Foreign Ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations on Wednesday condemned Monday’s coup in Myanmar and called for the release of all people “unjustly detained,” including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“We are deeply concerned by the detention of political leaders and civil society activists,” the ministers said in a joint statement issued following the Myanmar military’s seizure of power Monday.
The G7, which groups Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States as well as the European Union, called on the military to immediately end the state of emergency and restore power to the democratically elected government.
Also on Wednesday, the Japanese government said it recognized Monday’s developments as a coup, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato telling a news conference that Tokyo would “consider its response,” given its significant financial support to Myanmar.
The statements from Tokyo and the G7 came as thousands of Myanmar demonstrators gathered outside the Foreign Ministry, demanding that Tokyo join its allies in taking a harder stance against the coup.
Wearing red and waving printed photos of Suu Kyi, a long line of protesters surrounded government buildings in Tokyo, where large political demonstrations are relatively rare.
“Free, free Aung San Suu Kyi, free, free Myanmar,” the crowd chanted in unison while their representatives handed Foreign Ministry officials a statement that called on Japan to use all of its “political, diplomatic, and economic power” to restore the civilian government in Myanmar.
Japan and Myanmar have long enjoyed close ties. Japan’s largest companies have been particularly aggressive in expanding their businesses there in recent years, seeing it as Southeast Asia’s last major frontier market.
The Myanmar army seized power Monday, cutting short an unsteady transition to democracy on the grounds of fraud in last November’s general election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide.
Union of Myanmar Citizen Association, which organized the rally, said Japan should not recognize the newly formed military regime. Nearly 3,000 people took part in the protest Wednesday, the organizers said.
Mathida, a 50-year-old who works in a restaurant in Tokyo, said she joined the protest to push Japanese officials to do more to restore democracy in Myanmar.
“We want our leader and our mother Aung San Suu Kyi to be freed,” she said. “The military is not the government.” She declined to give her full name.
When pressed at a Tuesday news conference if Japan supported or would emphasize the kind of stance that the United States had expressed, including the possibility of sanctions, Kato sidestepped a direct answer, repeating an earlier statement that Japan would keep in close contact with other nations and monitor the situation in Myanmar.
A top defense official said this week that Japan needs to be cautious about its approach toward Myanmar because cutting ties risks pushing the country closer to China.
In contrast, the coup has drawn public condemnation from the United States and other Western countries. Suu Kyi remains in detention despite international calls for her immediate release.
In the biggest public protest against the coup so far, people in the commercial hub of Yangon chanted and banged on metal pots late on Tuesday in a traditional gesture to drive away evil or bad karma.
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