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Defense chiefs from a dozen countries, including Japan, released a statement Sunday condemning the bloodbath in Myanmar a day earlier, when more than 100 people — including several children — were killed after security forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters.

Although Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi condemned the use of deadly force by Myanmar’s army and police, Japan has not joined countries like the U.S. and U.K. in slapping sanctions on firms linked to the regime, preferring to leave lines of communication to the generals open.

Just last week, Reuters reported that a consortium of Japanese firms and a Japanese state entity have been paying rent since 2017 on a multimillion-dollar hotel and office development that ultimately goes to Myanmar’s Defense Ministry, which is controlled by the military under the country’s constitution.

International condemnation after killing of more than 100 protesters in Myanmar
International condemnation after killing of more than 100 protesters in Myanmar

When Japan opted to break ranks with its fellow Group of Seven members recently on the issue of sanctioning Chinese officials linked to the mass detention of Uyghurs and others in Xinjiang, Motegi said Japan lacked the legal means to punish officials based on human rights violations alone.

To address that issue, a cross-party group of lawmakers has been set up to look into creating a Japanese version of the Magnitsky Act, which would allow the government to freeze the assets of and impose travel bans on those who violate human rights.

Exiled Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy argues that such a device has the potential to make Japan a strong voice in the defense of human rights in Asia, with the means to call out not just the Myanmar regime but violators across the region — including Prime Minister Hun Sen in Cambodia.

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