Myanmar footballer to seek asylum in Japan
TOKYO, JUNE 17: A goalkeeper from Myanmar's national team who raised an anti-coup salute during a match outside Tokyo has refused to fly home and will seek asylum in Japan, his lawyer told AFP Thursday.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since a February coup ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government, sparking huge protests and renewed clashes between the military and ethnic rebel armies in border regions.
Last month, substitute goalkeeper Pyae Lyan Aung raised the three-finger salute as the national anthem played before a World Cup qualifier against Japan.
Late Wednesday, he told a Japanese immigration officer at an airport in Osaka that he would not board a plane back to Myanmar, his lawyer Shogo Watanabe told AFP, confirming earlier local reports.
"After confirming his wishes, we will proceed with procedures to seek refugee status either in Osaka or in Tokyo," Watanabe added.
"It's obvious (that he is a political refugee) after he made the three-finger salute... I hope his refugee status will be recognised as soon as possible," Watanabe said, adding the process could take months.
National broadcaster NHK showed footage of the player speaking through a translator in Osaka on Wednesday evening.
"If I return to Myanmar, my life would be in danger. I decided to stay in Japan," he said.
"The Japanese government and people must know Myanmar's situation. I call for your cooperation," he added. -AFP