By Norimasa Tahara
BANGKOK – The armed forces of Myanmar (Burma) carried out a coup d’état [in February this year]. A group of likeminded Japanese living in Myanmar conducted a survey of Myanmar and Japanese nationals who work for Japanese companies in Myanmar regarding the response of the Japanese government and companies to the coup d’état. More than 80% of Japanese respondents and more than 90% of Myanmar respondents said that Japan should impose some form of economic sanctions. Many called for Japan to take a resolute stance with the armed forces, which continue to oppress the people of Myanmar.
The survey was conducted online from mid- to late April, and responses were received from 135 Japanese and 145 Myanmar nationals. There are 3,505 Japanese residing in Myanmar (as of December 2020), and more than 400 Japanese companies have entered the market there.
Japan has long shared ties with the Burmese military. The Japanese government has been seeking a breakthrough in the situation through dialogue by drawing on these ties. Japan’s approach has thus differed from that taken by Europe and the United States, which have imposed economic sanctions. According to the survey, 71.1% of Japanese respondents said that Japan “is too considerate of the military,” and a total of 86.7% said Japan should impose economic sanctions, including those who said Japan should impose limited sanctions. Among Myanmar respondents, 95.2% sought sanctions from Japan, and 27.6% said the sanctions should be “strong.”
Regarding the response of Japanese companies [to the coup], 53.3% of Japanese respondents said that Japanese companies have “not sufficiently expressed their opinions,” and some said “more and more people in Myanmar are becoming disappointed [in Japan].” Regarding the relationship between the Japanese government and the armed forces, 57.8% of Japanese respondents said “Japan should continue its stance of dialogue.”
Regarding expectations for the Japanese government, many Japanese responded Japan should “mediate a reconciliation between the armed forces and pro-democracy forces” and “negotiate with and persuade the armed forces.” In contrast, Myanmar respondents sought support from Japan for pro-democracy forces and ethnic minority armed groups, and few desired Japan to be in contact with the armed forces.