• SHARE

The flag of Myanmar was hoisted high Sunday in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, where thousands marched through the streets to protest the military coup that took place in the Southeast Asian country earlier this month.

Around 5,000 people — mostly Myanmar nationals — gathered with flags raised and signs in hand to protest the putsch in their home country and the subsequent detainment by the military of major political leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

The military seized control of the government on Feb. 1, alleging fraud in Suu Kyi’s landslide victory in a national election in November. Television broadcasters have been shut down, internet and phone services severed, banks forced to close and a curfew put in place as troops patrol the streets.

The protesters in Shibuya called for the curfew to be lifted, the detainees to be released and the country returned to the people.

“The government the people of Myanmar chose has been taken from us,” one organizer said through a megaphone as protesters were gathering at Yoyogi Park before marching toward the scramble crossing near Shibuya Station. “There are many people from Myanmar living in Japan and we want people to understand our situation and support our cause.”

Children hold placards at a protest in Tokyo on Sunday against the military coup in Myanmar. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Children hold placards at a protest in Tokyo on Sunday against the military coup in Myanmar. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI

A candlelight vigil was held on Thursday in front of United Nations University, also in Shibuya, to protest the military takeover. Earlier in the month, thousands gathered in front of the Foreign Ministry to urge the Japanese government to take action. More than 35,000 Myanmar nationals lived in Japan as of June 2020, according to the central government, 9,000 of whom reside in Tokyo.

In Myanmar, people have taken to the streets in protest but police responded with rubber bullets, water cannons and, in some cases, live ammunition.

The military has declared a one-year emergency to give itself time to hold a democratic election after Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a towering victory over the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in November.

On the day of the coup, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, the Japanese government’s top spokesperson, said the situation “warrants great concern as it undermines the country’s democratic process.”

The U.K., Australia and the U.N. have condemned the coup, while U.S. President Joe Biden threatened sanctions.

Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948 and fell under military rule from 1962 until 2011, at which point a new government began to establish democratic processes that many in Myanmar believe have been jeopardized by the ongoing military takeover.

“Japan has strongly supported Myanmar’s democratization,” Kato said. “We are against any act that obstructs that process.”

More than 35,000 Myanmar nationals lived in Japan as of June 2020, according to the central government, 9,000 of whom reside in Tokyo. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
More than 35,000 Myanmar nationals lived in Japan as of June 2020, according to the central government, 9,000 of whom reside in Tokyo. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Protesters in Shibuya on Sunday called for a curfew in Myanmar to be lifted, the detainees to be released and the country returned to the people. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Protesters in Shibuya on Sunday called for a curfew in Myanmar to be lifted, the detainees to be released and the country returned to the people. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Yu Iwin, 21, traveled to Tokyo from Ibaraki Prefecture along with eight other people from Myanmar to take part in a protest on Sunday. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
Yu Iwin, 21, traveled to Tokyo from Ibaraki Prefecture along with eight other people from Myanmar to take part in a protest on Sunday. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
People march in the streets in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Sunday to protest the military coup in Myanmar. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI
People march in the streets in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on Sunday to protest the military coup in Myanmar. | RYUSEI TAKAHASHI

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)