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International rights body has requested Japan to suspend giving training to Myanmar military personnel for hurling serious abuses on people of ethnic minority areas. Human Rights Watch said that a Myanmar army general who received military training in Japan served as a high-ranking officer in a regional command that has been implicated in serious abuses in ethnic minority areas. According to HRW, from August 2021 to July 2022, Brig. Gen. Tin Soe was based at Eastern Command headquarters, which oversees operations in southern Shan and Karenni (Kayah) States and whose forces were responsible for a massacre of civilians and other atrocities.

“Myanmar graduates of Japan’s military training program are serving in conflict areas where Myanmar military abuses are rampant,” said Teppei Kasai, Asia program officer at Human Rights Watch. “The Japanese government should stop playing with fire and immediately end its support of Myanmar’s military.”

Then-Colonel Tin Soe received training at Japan’s Ground Self Defense Force Staff College from August 2016 to March 2017, based on information from the All Japan Defense Association and a Defense Ministry document. Tin Soe served as military attaché for the Myanmar embassy in Tokyo from 2019 to 2021, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter and state media reports. Two sources said that Tin Soe left Japan after the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar and was appointed a brigadier general. He was deployed to the Eastern Command headquarters in Shan State’s Taunggyi in August 2021. In July 2022, Tin Soe was relocated to Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, a source said.

The Eastern Command, one of 14 regional commands of Myanmar’s armed forces, controls more than 40 infantry battalions in southern Shan and Karenni States, areas that have had increased fighting since the coup. Since the renewal of military operations in the region in May 2021, the UN, human rights groups and independent media outlets have documented extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, looting, and arson, as well as offensives targetting civilians , indiscriminate attacks, and use of landmines by Myanmar forces under the Eastern Command.

On December 24, 2021, in Karenni State’s Hpruso township, security forces summarily executed at least 39 people, including 4 children and 2 staff members from the international aid group Save the Children. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that many of the victims were bound, gagged, and showed signs of torture, and some may have been burned alive. “It is one of the most shocking and depressing things I have ever experienced,” said a doctor who performed autopsies on the victims.

In February, the European Union sanctioned Brig. Gen. Ni Lin Aung, head of the Eastern Command and Tin Soe’s superior at the time, stating that he “directly commands the units in the State of Kayah, including those responsible for that massacre.” The EU also sanctioned Lt. Gen. Aung Zaw Aye, the commander of the Bureau of Special Operations No. 2, which oversees the Eastern Command.

In May, Amnesty International reported on abuses carried out during Eastern Command operations including “unlawful attacks, village burning, pillage, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, and persecution of ethnic Karenni communities.” Infantry Battalion 102, under an Eastern Command combat division, committed several indiscriminate shelling attacks. Amnesty also reported on the military’s use of antipersonnel landmines “on a massive scale” in Karenni State, which the Karenni Human Rights Group said were responsible for killing or seriously injuring at least 20 civilians since June 2021.