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Myanmar’s military imposed martial law over more areas of Yangon on Monday, a day after dozens of protesters were killed in clashes with security forces and unidentified assailants torched Chinese-financed factories in the city.

Since the country’s shift from military rule in 2011, more than 400 Japanese companies have entered the troubled country, a key link between India and Southeast Asia. While some, like beer giant Kirin, are withdrawing in response to the crackdown, many others are hanging on to see what happens politically.

Japan’s space agency and Hokkaido University, meanwhile, face a quandary over what to do about Myanmar’s first satellite, which is currently being held on board the International Space Station. The satellite is fitted with cameras designed to monitor farms and fisheries, but activists worry that those cameras could be used for military purposes by the junta.

Martial law in Myanmar? | DW NEWS
Martial law in Myanmar? | DW NEWS

Since thousands took to the streets in Tokyo last month to protest the coup, Japan has released a statement condemning the army’s use of violence and calling for the release of detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Burmese residents, however, have called on Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi to leverage Japan’s military ties with the junta to convince the generals to end the coup.

Writing in the Opinion section, Tun Khin of the Burmese Rohingya Organization U.K. argues that as a regional leader, Japan has a particularly important role to play in shaping a democratic path for Myanmar.

There are four areas in which Japan can act, he says. One of those is to join other countries in recognizing the existence of the Rohingya ethnic minority. While Japan has offered aid to Rohingya refugees, such as $19 million announced last week, Tokyo refers to them as “Muslims in Rakhine State” and abstains in human rights votes at the U.N. on the issue.

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