Media Mix, May 15, 2021

Yuki Kitazumi

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the Japanese government’s “channels” to the Myanmar military that staged a coup earlier this year. The point of the column is to ask whether the government has the wherewithal to confront the Myanmar military and persuade it to negotiate in good faith with the civilian government it removed from power under the charge that the civilians’ overwhelming victory in last November’s general election was fraudulent, though third party observers said it was free and fair. The fact that the military has freed Japanese freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi after arresting and indicting him for allegedly spreading “fake news” about the protest movement against the military proves that the Japanese government does have some sway over the generals because of all the aid it gives the country—much of which likely goes directly into the generals’ pockets—but so far there has been no indication that the Japanese government will use this influence to help the people of Myanmar and its shaky democracy, which has now collapsed. Though the Japanese mass media hasn’t said so overtly, the mood on social media leans toward an acknowledgement that there seems to be little will in the government to try and broker some kind of agreement between the military and the civilian government. The President Online article cited in the column goes into detail about the financial stakes involved, and though these stakes definitely come into play (many Japanese companies are heavily invested in Myanmar), as time stretches on and the military seems determined to just wait things out in a bid to wear down the protesters, the relative inaction on the part of the Japanese government seems to show that it doesn’t have the stomach to take on the generals in this regard. In other words, maybe money has less to do with it than we think it does. It may simply be a matter of the government telling itself that this is an issue that only the people of Myanmar can solve, and you can make of that what you will. 

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