Japan calls for the release of Japanese journalists held in Myanmar

Tokyo (AP) —The Japanese government said on Monday that it was requesting Myanmar to release a Japanese journalist arrested by security forces in Yangon, the largest city the day before.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Monday that his government had asked Myanmar authorities to explain the arrest and other details and release them as soon as possible.

He did not identify the detainee, but Japanese media identified him as a freelance journalist, Yuki Kitazumi, a former Nikkei Business newspaper reporter currently based in Yangon.

“The Myanmar side will continue to demand early release while doing everything in its power to protect the Japanese people,” Kato said.

Japan’s NHK public television quoted witnesses as seeing Kitazumi arrested and taken away from his home.

Kitazumi was temporarily detained by police in late February while reporting on February 1 the opposition to democratization in Myanmar, where the military expelled the elected government.

Japan has increased criticism of the deadly crackdown on Myanmar’s opposition, but has taken a milder approach than the United States and several other countries that have imposed sanctions on military junta members.

On Saturday, Military Junta released more than 23,000 prisoners to commemorate the traditional New Year holidays. At least three were political prisoners, but it was not immediately clear whether the detained activists were released during the post-coup crackdown.

Government troops have killed at least 728 protesters and bystanders since the acquisition, according to the Political Prisoners Support Association, which monitors casualties and arrests. The group says 3,141 people have been detained, including exiled private leader Aung San Suu Kyi.