TOKYO/GENEVA (28 April 2023) – A UN expert today urged the Japanese government to assume a greater leadership role to address the deteriorating crisis in Myanmar and step up pressure on the country’s military junta.
“The international community’s response to the crisis in Myanmar is failing, and that failure has contributed to a lethal downward spiral that is devastating the lives of millions of people”, said Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar at the end of a 10-day official visit to Japan.
“I came to Japan because I believe that this country has an essential role to play in resolving the crisis,” Andrews said.
“Japan’s leadership will be vital in recalibrating a failing international response to the crisis,” he said. The UN expert called on Japan to work with regional and global allies to weaken the capacity of Myanmar’s military junta to attack its citizens.
In a statement (also in Japanese) delivered at the end of his visit, the Special Rapporteur raised the alarm about an impending humanitarian disaster in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Without immediate additional funding, a decision to cut food rations by an additional 20% will be made in the next few weeks, reducing food rations to 27 cents per person per day. The cuts would also potentially eliminate food rations completely for hundreds of thousands.
“This is an emergency. Further cuts will leave the Rohingya, already victims of genocidal attacks in Myanmar, at risk of starvation and drive thousands into boats and dangerous land routes in utter desperation,” Andrews warned.
He called on the Government of Japan and all Member States to immediately increase humanitarian funding, including by redirecting funding from development programmes in Myanmar.
Referring to the worsening situation in Myanmar, Andrews said Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who has led the junta since the February 2021 coup, had responded to widespread opposition to their rule with barbarism and oppression against the people of Myanmar. “Arbitrary detention, torture and systematic attacks on villages have become hallmarks of the junta. The military is repeatedly attacking civilian populations throughout the country and has quite literally made war on the Myanmar people,” the expert said.
He urged Japan to impose targeted economic sanctions on the Myanmar military and its key sources of funding, just as it is doing in response to the crisis in Ukraine.
“Economic sanctions that deprive the junta of the resources required to operate its war-making machinery would weaken the capacity of the junta to attack its people,” Andrews said.
The expert urged Japan to terminate a Ministry of Defence programme that continues to provide military training to military personnel from Myanmar, referencing credible reports linking previous trainees to military units that have committed atrocities against civilians.
Andrews called on the Government of Japan to clearly and consistently renounce the junta’s plan to stage fraudulent national elections as a means of legitimising itself. “It is not possible to hold a genuine election when opposition leaders are arrested, detained, tortured and executed; when key political parties have been dissolved; when it is illegal to criticise the junta; and when journalists are imprisoned for doing their job,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur highlighted the upcoming G7 Summit in Hiroshima as an opportunity for Japan to shine a light on the situation in Myanmar before the world.
“I urge Prime Minister Kishida to ensure that the Myanmar crisis is high on the G7 agenda and that a strong, unified message and action on Myanmar emerges from the Summit,” the expert said.
Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, Andrews is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School and an Associate of Harvard University’s Asia Center. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network and has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.