TOKYO — An expert soccer participant from Myanmar who publicly opposed the navy junta that staged a coup in his nation gained asylum in Japan on Friday, a uncommon growth in a rustic identified for its notoriously unwelcoming immigration system.
The athlete, Ko Pyae Lyan Aung, got here to Japan with Myanmar’s nationwide crew for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Asia this yr. Whereas on the sphere earlier than the primary match, he flashed a three-fingered salute — a gesture made in style by the film “The Starvation Video games” and that has grow to be an indication of resistance in his residence nation.
His small protest triggered intense information protection that put him in a nationwide highlight. The gesture additionally introduced concern that his life could possibly be in peril if he returned residence. Shortly earlier than boarding a flight again, he requested Japanese immigration brokers at passport management for asylum, playing that he was higher off taking an opportunity on Japan’s system than the forgiveness of the junta, which has brutally crushed the opposition since its Feb. 1 coup.
Japan accepts lower than 1 % of asylum seekers annually, and it authorized solely 47 asylum functions final yr. The system got here in for blistering criticism after the loss of life of a Sri Lankan migrant in a detention cell. Mr. Pyae Lyan Aung’s case additionally put consideration on the reluctance of the Japanese authorities to take a agency stance in opposition to the junta’s actions in Myanmar. Whereas Japanese officers have denounced the navy’s actions, they’ve declined to hitch the US and different international locations in making use of sanctions. Greater than 1,000 folks have died by the hands of Myanmar’s safety forces, in accordance with a tally stored by a monitoring group that tracks the killings. Hundreds are in detention.
Japan has, nevertheless, allowed folks from Myanmar to use for visas on a provisional foundation. Mr. Pyae Lyan Aung obtained a certificates on Friday testifying to his asylum standing from the Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau.
Chatting with reporters on Friday, he thanked Japan for approving his asylum utility and mentioned that he had discovered a place with a third-tier Japanese soccer membership within the port metropolis of Yokohama and could be searching for extra work to help himself.
“Now that I’ve obtained residence standing, I can reside fear free right here in Japan,” he mentioned, including that he had not given up on his dream of going skilled full time.
Mr. Pyae Lyan Aung’s lawyer, Yoshihiro Sorano, praised the Japanese authorities for its resolution, however famous that there have been nonetheless many extra folks from Myanmar in Japan who may face political persecution in the event that they returned residence.
“It’s Japan’s obligation to think about a means that Myanmar can construct a society that doesn’t produce refugees,” he mentioned.