Japanese Filmmaker Toru Kubota Sentenced to 10 Years in Myanmar

After the coup on Feb. 1, 2021, Japan issued statements condemning the government takeover but declined to join Western nations in introducing sanctions, opting instead to freeze most non-humanitarian aid.

Mr. Kubota had made more than a dozen trips to Myanmar, focusing in part on the Rohingya, according to a GoFundMe page created for him by his friends. Mr. Kubota was in Myanmar this summer to work on a documentary “about the loneliness of a Burmese man,” the page said. In a statement posted on the page in September, Mr. Kubota thanked his supporters and said that Myanmar was “in an invisible war state. I hope you will keep an eye on people who live in this country.”

His sentencing is one of the harshest handed down since the coup and makes Mr. Kubota the fourth foreigner to be sentenced during that time, and the third who is currently being held. Sean Turnell, 57, an Australian economic adviser to Myanmar’s imprisoned civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was convicted of violating an official secrets law on Sept. 29 and sentenced to three years in prison.

Vicky Bowman, 56, a former British ambassador to Myanmar who later led an economic policy group there, was sentenced in late August to a year in prison, together with her Burmese husband, U Htein Lin, for violating immigration law. Danny Fenster, an American journalist, was sentenced to 11 years in prison and then immediately freed and expelled in November 2021, after spending half a year in detention.

Mr. Kubota’s sentencing “marks a new low point in the junta’s assault on the press,” said Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists. “The ruling shows that no journalist, foreign or local, is safe from the regime’s arbitrary use of overbroad laws to stifle independent news reporting.”

In a statement, Amnesty International said, “With this latest verdict, Myanmar’s military is cementing its reputation as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world.”

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