TOKYO — A Japanese filmmaker jailed for nearly four months in Myanmar described part of his detention there as “hell” and called on Tokyo to take a tougher stance against human rights abuses in the military-controlled country.
The Southeast Asian nation has been in chaos since the military toppled an elected government last year. The junta has arrested thousands, including politicians, students, journalists and foreigners, in its attempt to quash dissent.
“It was horrible. I understood the concept of hell,” Toru Kubota told reporters in Tokyo, describing conditions in a police hold where he was first detained after being detained at a protest in July.
He said he could barely lie down to sleep in the small, overcrowded cell that was dirty and unsanitary, and that he witnessed other detainees being beaten with batons.
He was later transferred to Myanmar’s notorious colonial-era Insein jail, where he was held in solitary confinement, he said.
A spokesman for the Myanmar junta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sentenced to 10 years for breaking communication and sedition laws, Kubota was freed in a mass amnesty this month along with a former British ambassador and an Australian economic adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Economic adviser Sean Turnell also described dirty cells and having to eat from a bucket while in a Myanmar jail in an interview with The Australian newspaper on Monday.
Vicky Bowman, Britain’s ambassador from 2002 to 2006 who heads a group promoting ethical business in Myanmar, has been jailed for immigration violations.
Tokyo has cut aid to Myanmar and called on the military to stop the violence, but its response has been more restrained than harsh sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and others.
“I hope the Japanese government will take a much stronger stance towards the Myanmar military,” Kubota said, adding that any flow of funds from Japan to Myanmar should be closely scrutinized.
Japan’s foreign ministry could not immediately comment.