Kirin last week scrapped its troubled beer tie-up with an opaque conglomerate linked to the Myanmar army, which days earlier staged a coup, and in 2017 killed thousands of Rohingya in a “genocidal” crackdown. The abrupt end to the alliance serves as a cautionary tale for other Japanese firms whose Myanmar ventures have been thrown into disarray by the coup, experts say.
With the United States announcing plans to reimpose sanctions on Myanmar, Japan remains cautious about invoking punitive measures against the Southeast Asian country, fearing any such moves may affect Japanese businesses operating there and drive the military closer to China.
So what should Japan do? It should demand the restoration of democracy, a return to the barracks by the army and respect for last year’s elections, argues the JT Editorial Board. And it should work with ASEAN and others to make this happen. Japan needn’t fear that the Myanmar army will embrace China: The generals are nationalists and harbor deep suspicions of Beijing, the board writes.
As Brahma Chellaney notes, the recent coup means all the countries of continental Southeast Asia — Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar — are now under authoritarian rule, just like their giant northern neighbor, China.
The coronavirus crisis has exacerbated this democratic breakdown in Asia and beyond, writes Joshua Kurlantzick. While leading democracies turn inward to deal with COVID-19, the world’s most powerful dictatorship, China, has controlled the pandemic domestically and returned to high growth, bolstering its legitimacy.
Considering this backdrop, imposing sanctions on Myanmar, argues columnist Kuni Miyake, will not achieve the ultimate goal of restoring democracy. Instead, Japan must persuade, rather than pressure, the army to reverse course. Chellaney concurs: In fact, fresh sanctions and isolation would likely turn Myanmar into another Chinese satellite, like Laos, Cambodia and Pakistan, he warns.