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Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi meets the media in Tokyo on May 28, 2020.  © 2020 Kyodo via AP Images

(Tokyo) – Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi should forcefully raise human rights concerns on an upcoming regional trip, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the foreign minister. Motegi will visit Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar from August 20 to 25, 2020.

In Papua New Guinea, violence against women and children is rampant. Cambodia’s one-party state is increasing its crackdown on activists, journalists, and the political opposition. Laos has failed to address its growing number of enforced disappearances. And Myanmar faces genocide allegations before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi’s whirlwind trip encompasses four countries with human rights crises of their own making,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Japan’s credibility on human rights in its bilateral relations is on the line, so Foreign Minister Motegi should publicly raise rights concerns in each country he visits.”

In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on August 21, Motegi should call on the government to address violence against women and children, and the lack of accountability for police brutality, Human Rights Watch said. In Cambodia on August 22, he should express grave concerns about harassment, intimidation, physical attacks, and arbitrary arrests against the country’s union leaders, land rights activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and the political opposition.

In Laos on August 23, Motegi should raise enforced disappearances and the wrongful imprisonment of political activists, as well as censorship and state media control. And on August 24 and 25 in Myanmar, he should press the government on its systematic persecution and violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority, and laws and regulations used to stifle free speech and peaceful protests throughout the country.

Motegi will be in Myanmar on August 25, the three-year anniversary of the Myanmar military’s campaign of atrocities including mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson against the Rohingya in Rakhine State. Over 745,000 Rohingya fled abroad, primarily to Bangladesh, between August 25, 2017, and early 2018.

The Japanese government should immediately cancel its planned aid of 100 million yen (US$950,000) to the Myanmar police force, which is implicated in committing serious rights abuses with impunity.

“Foreign Minister Motegi should use his trip to let each government know that Japan’s financial and development aid needs to go hand-in-hand with a commitment and action toward protecting human rights,” Adams said. “Only then can Japan plausibly claim it is upholding its 2019 ‘Human Rights Commitments and Pledges.’


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