Myanmar’s Bloodbath Continues: ‘We Want Japan to Contribute to World Peace and Security’

image: kan Sangtong /

Key points of the article:

  • The West fell for Myanmar’s military tactics and brought Myanmar and China closer
  • It is possible for Japan-like democracy to take root in Asia
  • Japan must amend Article 9 of the Constitution and fulfill its ‘responsibility to protect’

By Hanako Cho

The bloodbath continues in Myanmar. On March 15, security forces fired on protesters and killed as many as 39 people, the worst after the coup d’état.

In late February, after a coup broke out in Myanmar, a private conference call between its military forces and China was leaked. Two Foreign Ministry officials allegedly involved in leaking the call have been detained prior to March 12.

During this call, China called for increased security in the pipeline connecting Kunming, Yunnan Province and Kyaukpyu, western Myanmar, according to local media sources.

China has raised concerns as it backs Myanmar’s military forces, and anti-China protesters are calling for an attack on the pipeline.

The pipeline was put into operation for natural gas in 2013 and for crude oil in 2017.

China is increasing its production in Myanmar as it has imported nearly half of its growing demand for natural gas from Australia, where China-Australia relations are deteriorating. Also, since crude oil is imported from the Middle East via the Straits of Malacca, the direct land route from the Indian Ocean to China is vital. In this respect, Kyaukpyu is a key strategic point for China’s energy security.

It would be unbearable for China if Myanmar protesters targeted the pipeline — thus, China demanded Myanmar’s armed forces to put pressure on Myanmar’s local media.

In front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar citizens implored that China should denounce the coup d’état. On social media theories are spreading that China was involved with the coup. It has been said that “Chinese-like voices can be heard from authority personnel in charge of the crackdown,” and distrust is increasing. This situation harkens back memories from the Hong Kong protests, in which there were rumors among Hong Kong citizens that Mandarin-speaking police officers were pretending to be Hong Kong police officers.

The public’s distrust that China is behind Myanmar’s military coup will only increase as circumstantial evidence accumulates. The private conference call between Myanmar’s military forces and China will become one proof among others.


The West Fell for Myanmar’s Military Tactics, Strengthened Myanmar-China Ties

The biggest “success” factor of the military coup was the Rohingya issue in 2017 that caused Western nations to distance themselves from Myanmar. Amnesty International has revoked its award from Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and Western companies have hastily fled Myanmar.

Just as all doors closed on Myanmar, China was the one to welcome Myanmar through its Belt and Road Initiative. According to U.S. foreign policy expert Walter Russell Mead, the military had used the Rohingya issue deliberately to divide Ms. Suu Kyi from her Western allies. This has supposedly been the common view from both opponents and supporters of Ms. Suu Kyi.

Just as we thought the West was treating Ms. Suu Kyi like an angel, it turned its back on Ms. Suu Kyi as if she was a devil. Samuel P. Huntington said that religion would one day become the fault line that would occupy the world, but his keen perception was put aside as Western allies cut off Ms. Suu Kyi as a “human rights oppressor.”

This is once again a mistake on the part of Western nations. Similarly to the way they handled the Ukrainian issue and strengthened Sino-Russian relations, the West mistakenly created an opportunity to bring Myanmar and China closer together.


‘We Want Japan to Contribute to World Peace and Security’

With that said, the people of Myanmar are anti-China. Myanmar’s people have suffered under military dictatorship for 50 years and experienced what democracy is like in the 10-year period since 2011. They do not long for a system like China or North Korea; the people of Myanmar only deepened their ties with China for an economic advantages.

This fact is evident by research from ISEAS (ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute), Singapore’s independent think tank. The research consists of surveys conducted in 10 ASEAN countries that targeted influential experts on ASEAN and Asian regions. When asked which reliable strategic partner they should work with amid the U.S.-China hegemony battle, “Japan” had the highest response rate at 38% — in Myanmar, the number is especially high as 53.3% answered “Japan.” In another question that asked which country could be trusted to do what is right in contributing to world peace, security, prosperity and governance, 61.2% of ASEAN experts answered Japan, again, the most popular response. In response to this question, 57% of the respondents in Myanmar said that Japan is “reliable” or “slightly reliable.”

However, when asked to name the most influential country in terms of politics and strategy, 52.2% answered “China,” while only 1.8% answered “Japan.” At the same time, survey results also reveal that 85.4% of respondents raised their concerns with growing Chinese influence.

Overall, ASEAN members, specifically Myanmar, see Japan as having a low political and strategic influence despite placing a high degree of reliance on Japan. Concerns with the growing influence of China’s power, however, have put high expectations on Japan to contribute to world peace and security.


Japan-like Democracy Can Take Root in Asia

Behind such high trust in Japan are continuous efforts including the provision of ODA. Regarding the Rohingya issue, Myanmar may also feel gratitude toward Japan for its continued support since the West suddenly stopped supporting its democratization.

In addition, the cultural connection as Buddhist countries in Asia may be a factor for Japan to serve as a role model for democratization. History has shown that legal systems are not rationally created, and instead, they are developed from religious foundations. In that respect, it is quite natural for Asian countries to seek Japan’s model which shares common roots of culture and civilization. We must not forget that the Roman Empire expanded not only due to its military power, but also due to the collective respect and fascination for the country of Rome.

Human rights and democratization become primary tactics to meet the people of Myanmar’s expectations.

In Europe and the U.S., the central value of modern democracy has been established during the rise of Protestantism. On the other hand, the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism were spread in Japan and rooted the idea that each individual has a Buddha-nature. This idea is consistent with Western democracy in the sense that “freedom as a child of God and Buddha must be respected,” forming the basis for human rights.

If 75-year-old Ms. Suu Kyi continues to be detained and debilitated, the National League for Democracy (NLD), without any successors, will most likely disintegrate into thin air. Such expectations on behalf of Myanmar’s military should not become reality.

The Japanese government, from the standpoint of advocating human rights and democracy, should demand the immediate release of Ms. Suu Kyi, stop the murder of civilians, and urgently foster the creation of such international public opinion.


Japan Must Amend Article 9 and Fulfill its ‘Responsibility to Protect’

Furthermore, it is worrying that the military has even more dangerous intentions. Happy Science CEO Master Ryuho Okawa recently conducted a spiritual reading of the guardian spirit of Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces. During the spiritual recording, Gen. Hlaing’s guardian spirit laid out a future scenario.

“In terms of our model, Cambodia is the one. So, if we hunt down all our people returning from abroad, purge them all along with the intellectuals, our country will be at peace,” he said.

The current script at hand is the Cambodianization of Myanmar. In Cambodia, two million people were slaughtered as the country shifted to communism. It is said that a Cambodian person became a target of the slaughter just for wearing glasses because they were seen as an intellectual who returned from abroad.

Under a military junta that truly advocates for this kind of purge, there may be a future in which millions of Myanmar’s people will be slaughtered like people in Cambodia. When that time comes, how should Japan respond?

An insightful reference was provided by the spiritual message of Shonan Yokoi, a Bakumatsu philosopher, conducted in 2012 by Master Okawa.

“But, if Japan did not lose in the previous World War and remained a country of power, in other words, if Japan did not lose to the U.S. during WWII and signed a peace treaty on equal footing with the U.S., the Japanese army would’ve been mobilized to prevent situations such as the deaths of 30 million people from the Cultural Revolution in China,” said the guardian spirit of Yokoi.

In other words, Japan would’ve fulfilled its “responsibility to protect” within the context of modern international politics.

The responsibility to protect (R2P) is a principle which defines that prompt intervention should be taken when genocide is taking place in neighboring countries. R2P was applied to prevent Serbs’ massacre of Albanians during the Kosovo crisis.

Underlying this theory that intervention should go beyond domestic policies of non-interference is a reflection of Nazi Germany — that the massacre of Jews was a result of the international community’s appeasement toward Germany. This often justifies “prompt intervention.”

It comes down to whether Japan can take on the responsibility to protect. Seiji Kawada, an associate professor at Happy Science University who teaches national security among other topics, made the following comment:

“In 1993, the U.N. peacekeeping operations (PKO) made a humanitarian intervention to end the Tutsi-Hutu conflict in Rwanda, but because the PKO troops didn’t have enough personnel nor equipment, Belgian PKO troops were attacked and murdered by government troops in 1994. While Belgian troops, along with all European troops, decided to retreat, the PKO was not strengthened. Within just 100 days after April, about 500,000 to one million Tutsi and Hutu people were slaughtered. This humanitarian intervention by the PKO was a great failure.

From these lessons learned, the PKO has continued to transform. There is a concept called ‘responsibility to protect,’ and the idea is that if a sovereign state cannot fulfill its responsibility to protect its own people, the international community shall take responsibility. The ‘responsibility to protect’ is this idea that the international community is allowed humanitarian intervention that takes precedence over principles of national sovereignty or domestic non-interference. In addition, PKO troops have decided to prioritize fairness over neutrality between opposing parties, to respond with the greatest solemnity if one party is acting with misconduct and exercise force (enforcement) if necessary.

This puts Japan’s Self Defense Forces (JSDF) in a difficult position as the PKO members have been dispatched as soldiers in recent years. In the revised PKO Act of 2015, Japan was allowed the use of weapons not only for self-preservation purposes such as self-defense, but also for ensuring the safety of local residents. However, there are strict restrictions placed on the JSDF so they do not conduct a ‘use of force’ as prohibited by Article 9 of the Constitution. Therefore, there is a high risk of deaths among the JSDF if they were to participate in a PKO humanitarian intervention.

It would be difficult for the JSDF to fulfill their mission to protect Asia’s peace and security without amending Article 9 of the Constitution, which disallows the right of belligerence.”

The recent conference call between the U.S., Japan and Australia, or Quad, gave off a sense that the U.S. is reluctant to make a military commitment in Asia and has very minimal intentions to transform the Quad into an Asian version of NATO.

A massacre in Southeast Asian countries may be neglected if both the U.S. and Japan continue with indecisive attitudes. Our humanity’s remorse of the Jewish massacre will go in vain. To stand by and watch it happen is nothing but egotism. It is the time for Japan to move on from “postwar war era mindset” and not disappoint the people of Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Bloodbath Continues: ‘We Want Japan to Contribute to World Peace and Security’
Copyright © IRH Press Co.Ltd. All Right Reserved.