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INTERNATIONAL > East Asia & Pacific

Interview with Watanabe Hideo: “I’m not trying to defend Myanmar military”

  • August 23, 2021
  • , Asahi , p. 4
  • JMH Translation

[The following is an interview with Japan Myanmar Association Chairman Watanabe Hideo.]

 

Interviewed by Oda Makoto

 

Question: Top military commander Min Aung Hlaing staged a coup.

 

Watanabe Hideo: It was not a coup. A coup means to deny the Constitution and law and to hold absolute power. He said he would “obey the Constitution and law.”

 

Q: Why do you support the military’s side of the story? 

 

Watanabe: I am not trying to defend the military. I have been communicating with the military to prevent this situation from arising. I want to see the military take action so that it is not criticized for cracking down or massacring people anymore than it already has been.

 

Q: Is the commander really serious about democratizing [Myanmar]?

 

Watanabe: He is serious. He has been repeatedly saying he is responsible for advancing democratization. In a speech he gave on Aug. 1, he promised domestic and international audiences he would hold a general election within two years.

 

Q: How do you think Japan should respond?

 

Watanabe: Just criticizing [the military] will not solve the problem. An interim government was established in Myanmar on Aug. 1. It should extend utmost cooperation until the general election promised by Min Aung Hlaing is held. And I believe that will lead to the holding of a democratic election.

 

Q: Do you consider yourself as a “special go-between”?

 

Watanabe: I have not been working privately. I discussed the future of Myanmar with then Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro in 2013 and we concluded that I would be in charge of communication with the military.

 

I have met with Min Aung Hlaing three times and spoken with him over the phone five or six times since February. (The fact that there is no one else in Japan who can do that) makes me aware of the poor state of Japanese diplomacy. If MOFA and parliamentarian diplomacy had been functioning properly, I would not have been described as the “only go-between.” I would not need to [serve as go-between] and would not do so.

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