• Kyodo


The University of Tokyo will host an online symposium on Saturday to discuss ways to help Myanmar people living in Japan as the crackdown by the military government on the pro-democracy movement continues in the Southeast Asian country following the February coup.

The forum will propose universities and other academic institutions in Japan accept Myanmar people who are unable to return home as students, faculty staff or researchers so that they can stay in Japan over the long term, according to organizers.

Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister of the National Unity Government — the parallel government established by pro-democracy forces — is scheduled to give a keynote speech, they said.

The virtual event comes after Tokyo introduced an emergency measure that allows Myanmar people in Japan to extend their stay and work in the country due to the unrest following the Feb. 1 military takeover.

The extension period is six months, but for those aiming to obtain the status of "specified skilled workers," established in April 2019 to expand employment opportunities for blue-collar foreign workers, the period is one year.

But since the turmoil in Myanmar shows little sign of a near-term resolution, calls have been growing to enable Myanmar people to settle down in Japan as refugees or long-term residents.

According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, about 35,000 individuals from Myanmar resided in Japan as of the end of last year.

The online symposium on human security in Myanmar will specifically discuss a framework in which researchers in the fields of international politics and area studies will accept Myanmar people seeking protection as students or faculty staff.

It will also explore the possibility of expanding scholarships to support them financially through coordination with the Global Academic Interdisciplinary Network, a U.N. program to protect displaced students and scholars.

Under the program, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees works with research institutes around the world.

Yasunobu Sato, a University of Tokyo graduate school professor who planned the event, said protecting Myanmar people in Japan as refugees will be a key theme for Tokyo, which aims to promote democracy in Asia.

"Accepting them would be an important investment of universities in Japan, which face an urgent need to promote globalization and diversification of their institutes," he added.

The Myanmar military's violence against civilians continues more than five months after the coup, with the number of people killed nearing 900 as of Tuesday, according to a human rights group monitoring the situation in the Southeast Asian country.

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