Japan filmmaker freed from Myanmar prison vows to tell story

Nov 27, 2022, 10:15 AM | Updated: Nov 28, 2022, 12:18 am
Toru Kubota, a Japanese journalist jailed for more than three months in Myanmar, speaks during a pr...

Toru Kubota, a Japanese journalist jailed for more than three months in Myanmar, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

(AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

              Toru Kubota, a Japanese journalist jailed for more than three months in Myanmar, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
            
              Toru Kubota, a Japanese journalist jailed for more than three months in Myanmar, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
            
              Toru Kubota, a Japanese journalist jailed for more than three months in Myanmar, speaks during a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) Monday, Nov. 28, 2022, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

TOKYO (AP) — Toru Kubota, a Japanese journalist who was arrested while covering a protest in military-ruled Myanmar and detained for more than three months, said his experience made him more determined to tell the story of people there.

“I feel I can understand their feelings more,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday.

Kubota, 26, was arrested July 30 and released on Nov. 17 in a broad prisoner amnesty announced by Myanmar’s military government.

He had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly breaking immigration law, sedition and other violations.

Australian academic Sean Turnell, former British Ambassador Vicky Bowman and American Kyaw Htay Oo were also released in the amnesty.

But Kubota stressed that many people remain imprisoned.

“I’m just one of those 16,000 people,” Kubota said, referring to the number of people who have been detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights monitoring organization.

Kubota said he was among 20 people placed in what he described as a “hellish” cell so tiny they had to sleep on top of each other.

Later, he was transferred to Insein prison in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, also known as Burma. The prison has housed political prisoners under various previous governments.

Kubota showed copies of messages that inmates had given him pleading for help. “Hope everyone can help bring justice, human rights and democracy that are needed in Burma,” said one message in Burmese. “Thank you for standing with the Burmese people,” read another.

Kubota said he hopes to continue making films that will bring attention to the plight of people in Myanmar. His past films include several on Myanmar, including a documentary on persecuted minority Rohingya refugees who have fled the country.

“Being deprived of freedom means you can’t speak out, or you can’t express your views. It deprives you of your rights, your freedom,” he said.

A graduate of Japan’s Keio University with a master’s degree from the University of the Arts London, Kubota has done work for Yahoo! News Japan, Vice Japan and Al Jazeera English.

Myanmar’s army seized power in February last year by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. It has cracked down on dissent, killing at least 2,465 civilians and arresting more than 16,000, according to the Assistance Association. Journalists have been detained on various charges, such as causing fear, spreading false news and agitating.

The Japanese government worked for Kubota’s release. His friends and supporters collected tens of thousands of signatures in an online petition, and PEN International and other rights groups also pushed for his freedom.

Kubota urged the Japanese government to do more to end human rights abuses in Myanmar.

He also said Japan could do more to welcome refugees from Myanmar and other nations. Last year, Japan accepted only 74 people as refugees, according to the Japan Association for Refugees.

“We must think about how to protect people who are trying to flee from authoritarian rule,” Kubota said. “Japan is being looked to as a place of hope.”

___

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

French President Emmanuel Macron, center, poses with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left,...
Associated Press

Zelenskyy wraps up European tour with visit to EU summit

BRUSSELS (AP) — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is wrapping up a whirlwind tour of his major European backers, already heading home with heaps of goodwill, promises of more military aid and, as hardware goes, France’s highest medal of honor. The European Union’s 27 leaders were awaiting the man in khaki in Brussels on Thursday, hoping […]
1 day ago
Heavy machinery moves coal as it is poured onto a stack near Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley, Aus...
Associated Press

Australia rejects new coal mine on environmental grounds

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia has for the first time rejected a coal mining application based on environmental law. The government is under pressure to curb climate change by blocking all new coal and gas extraction projects. Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters of both fossil fuels, which are major sources of the […]
1 day ago
Raqiya Abdsalam, who survived a bout of dengue fever, sits at her home in El-Obeid, Sudan on Januar...
Associated Press

Sudan’s tropical disease spike reflects poor health system

EL OBEID, Sudan (AP) — The two Sudanese women thought they had malaria and were taking their medication, but things took a dire turn. Both complained of a splitting headache and fever that didn’t respond to the anti-malaria treatment. By the time she was diagnosed with dengue fever, Raqiya Abdsalam was unconscious. “Soon after they […]
1 day ago
FILE - Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gestures during his speech at the 2022 Department ...
Associated Press

Japan, Philippines to sign plans to boost defense ties

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. are expected to sign key agreements to boost their defense ties Thursday as Asia sees tensions around China’s growing influence. Marcos is visiting Japan soon after he and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reached agreements on allowing the United States […]
1 day ago
FILE - Bryan Kohberger, who is accused of killing four University of Idaho students in Nov. 2022, a...
Associated Press

News groups ask Idaho Supreme Court to reject University slayer gag order

Thirty news organizations have asked the Idaho Supreme Court to overturn a gag order in a case against a man accused of stabbing four students to death.
1 day ago
FILE- A woman worships a cow as Indian Hindus offer prayers to the River Ganges, holy to them durin...
Associated Press

Indian government asks people to hug cows on Valentine’s Day

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s government-run animal welfare department has appealed to citizens to mark Valentine’s Day this year not as a celebration of romance but as “Cow Hug Day” to better promote Hindu values. The Animal Welfare Board of India said Wednesday that “hugging cows will bring emotional richness and increase individual and collective […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Japan filmmaker freed from Myanmar prison vows to tell story