Myanmar frees Japanese journalist, gets US$ 4 million in Japanese food aid
by Francis Khoo Thwe

Yuki Kitazumi was accused of favouring the pro-democracy movement in his work. At least 80 journalists have been arrested. It is unclear if Japan’s aid is a form of ransom, and if it will go to civilians or soldiers. The death toll from the junta's violence now stands at 788 people killed and 3,971 arrested.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese journalist arrested by security forces about a month ago, has been freed and deported. Because of his work, Kitazumi was accused of supporting the uprisings against the coup.

Japan's Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, confirmed yesterday that Kitazumi was on his way to Tokyo, scheduled to arrive Friday evening (picture 2).

Mr Motegi said that Japan used “various channels” to free its citizen, offering Myanmar US$ 4 million in emergency food aid via the World Food Programme to help it cope with its dire economic situation. The support is expected to help at least 600,000 people

In March, Japan condemned the coup and called for a return to democracy, saying that it was suspending aid to Myanmar,

It is not unclear whether this donation is a form of ransom payment or some quid pro quo, nor is it known who will receive the aid.

Since the coup d'état, food shortages have been reported across the country, for both the civilian population and members of the Armed Forces.

Soldiers have reportedly stolen food and valuables as well as beaten, arrested and killed people during their inspections of markets and night raids at homes of alleged activists.

Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV announced that the charges against the journalist were dropped “in order to reconcile with Japan and improve our relationship”.

In the past few months, the junta has arrested at least 80 journalists, accused of favouring the pro-democracy movement in their coverage, including some foreigners.

In an attempt to stop the bad press, the junta has shut down some local newspapers, banned the use of satellite dishes and limited Internet services.

Despite this, anti-coup protests continue. Demonstrations took places yesterday in Chin State, Magway and  Sagaing regions, Kyaukme (Shan State), and Yangon (picture 1).

Security forces also continue to arrest and kill. According to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, the number of people killed since the coup stood at 788 as of last night, with 3,971 people arrested. Of these, 20 have already been tried and sentenced to death, while 14 were given three years in prison.