Myanmar Anti-junta Ethnic Group Leader Calls for Japan’s Help with Democracy, Humanitarian Aid

The Japan News
Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU), speaks during an interview in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The leader of an ethnic group fighting against the Myanmar national army expressed his hope that Japan would help his country establish a federal democracy and create a constitution, during a Wednesday interview with The Japan News and The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, chairman of the Karen National Union (KNU), also called for the Japanese government and people to help internally displaced people in Myanmar, whose numbers have reached 3 million due to the civil war.

“We want to end military rule and shift to a better nation based on federalism,” the KNU leader told in the interview in Tokyo. Also participating in the interview were the National Unity Government (NUG), a pro-democracy organization that sees itself as the country’s legitimate government, Health Minister Zaw Wai Soe and Chin National Front (CNF) General Secretary Salai Thla Hei.

According to the NUG, pro-democracy forces control around 65% of the country. “We exert military pressure on the military,” Zaw Wai Soe said.

“We need external pressure from international society,” he said, urging Japan to call on its allies and other countries to increase pressure.

The military has been in power in Myanmar since the coup in 2021. From last fall, however, ethnic groups opposed to the military regime have intensified their counterattacks, and there are reports that the military has been pushed back. Last month, a coalition of anti-junta forces led by KNU temporarily seized Myawaddy, a town on the border with Thailand.

“The national army is clearly weakening,” the KNU chair said.

Humanitarian aid activities have stalled since the fighting intensified, and there are food shortages and other problems. More than 3 million people were estimated to have been internally displaced in Myanmar as of May 6, according to the NUG.

The KNU chair said he had met a Japanese Foreign Ministry official during his trip. He asked for support for the daily lives of internally displaced people.

The Myanmar military overthrew the democratic government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup in February 2021. Since then, about 5,000 people, including more than 700 children, have died as result of the military and police crackdown, according to the NUG.

The KNU chair said a “transitional justice mechanism” needed to be created to ensure that the military is held accountable for the crimes it has committed against civilians.

The junta insists that it plans to hold elections at some point in the future when there is peace and stability, without specifying a clear time, and that the military is only temporarily holding power.