Japan envoy heads for Myanmar over newsman's death

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TOKYO, Sep 30 (Reuters) A Japanese envoy today flew to Myanmar to urge the military junta to thoroughly investigate the killing of a Japanese journalist during an anti-government rally and not to use force to end mass protests.

In Tokyo, 20 Myanmar nationals living in Japan went on a hunger strike to demand an end to the crackdown on protests against 45 years of military rule in their home country.

Video journalist Kenji Nagai, 50, was fatally wounded in Yangon on Thursday, apparently shot by a soldier firing at point-blank range.

''One (purpose of the visit) is to make sure there is a full investigation into the dreadful incident and to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals,'' Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka told reporters at Narita airport on his way to Myanmar.

''The other is to deliver to them the voice of the international community, which hopes for the use of dialogue, not force, in handling pro-democracy movements,'' Yabunaka said.

Tokyo is considering recalling its ambassador and reducing or suspending technical assistance to Myanmar, and it will decide on how to proceed after seeing how the military junta reacts to Yabunaka's requests, Kyodo news agency said.

Yabunaka flew to Myanmar following yesterday arrival of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

In Tokyo, 18 Myanmar men and two women started a 48-hour hunger strike late today in front of the UN university building, drenched in chilly autumn rain and surrounded by about 100 supporters, each holding a candle in their hands.

''By staging a hunger strike at a United Nations facility like this, we are aiming to direct attention of not just Japanese people but people all over the world to Myanmar's problem,'' said Maung Min Nyo, one of the organisers of the strike.

REUTERS SG RAI2006

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