Released from Prison, Filmmaker Seeks More Support for Myanmar People

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Toru Kubota during an interview in Tokyo on Jan. 13

Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota, who was imprisoned in Myanmar for about 3½ months, has called for increased support for the people living there under military rule.

“Humanitarian assistance to Myanmar is not sufficient at all. I hope people will pay more attention,” the 26-year-old filmmaker said in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun earlier this month, ahead of the two-year anniversary on Feb. 1 of the military coup in Myanmar.

Kubota was taken away at gunpoint by military personnel on July 30 last year while filming a protest against the military junta in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for charges including sedition, but returned home after being pardoned and released on Nov. 17.

“Initially it seemed the same as before the coup, but people were being arrested or violently attacked just for posting criticism of the military on social media. This kind of thing was happening on a daily basis,” Kubota said.

Small flash mob demonstrations that lasted for less than a minute were sporadically held in an effort to show resistance to the military, even if it was just a little.

Kubota was detained while filming such demonstrations, which he felt illustrated the situation in Myanmar.

At one point, he was put in a cramped, filthy detention center with many other people and was accused of trumped-up charges such as “participating in demonstrations and attempting to mislead people.”

When he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, Kubota said he was “devastated.” His feelings were so turbulent that he even thought of committing suicide at times. However, he was encouraged by others who had been imprisoned for the same reason.

Kubota is currently working to establish a framework to support Myanmar journalists, feeling this to be his duty, as he was directly affected by the issue himself. “I should be the one to do it,” he said.

“I also want to continue creating works related to Myanmar, to highlight the problems there.”