Son of ex-Burma leader speaks at asylum trial

by Eric Johnston

OSAKA — The son of Burma’s first prime minister testified Wednesday in Osaka District Court on behalf of a male relative fighting for political asylum in Japan, saying if the government forces him to return to the country now called Myanmar he will be executed.

U Aung, the son of U Nu, postwar Burma’s first leader, who was overthrown in a military-backed coup 1962, told the court his relative, Aye Kyaw Soe, who is seeking political refugee status in Japan, would be put death if he returns to Myanmar.

Soe is is related to Nu and Soe’s father had also opposed the military junta led by Ne Win, which ruled Burma from 1962 until 1988, Aung said. Successive juntas have ruled what later became Myanmar since then.

“Aye Kyaw Soe’s family and my family were very close and we lived only a few kilometers apart. Soe’s father was a businessman who was involved in anti-Ne Win government activities, for which he was jailed,” Aung said.

“When the government investigates anybody involved in antigovernment activities, they make a list of that person’s relatives. Therefore, Aye Kyaw Soe was also marked by the government, and it’s certain he will be persecuted if he goes back to Myanmar, even today,” he added.

Soe first came to Japan on a training visa in August 1982 from Thailand, and left about a year later. In 1987, he returned to Japan on a tourist visa and began working illegally at a trading company.

Soe later married a Japanese national and received a spouse visa, but he separated from his wife and the three-year spouse visa he had expired in 2000. Three years later, he was picked up by immigration authorities and held at the West Japan Immigration Detention Center.

In March 2005, Soe was granted provisional release. Since then, he has applied twice for refugee status, but was turned down by the Justice Ministry, which prompted him to sue the Japanese government.

“Soe was always stubborn as a child, but he has been living in Japan a long time and I believe he has changed quite considerably, and that he genuinely loves Japan and wants to stay here,” Aung said.

Aung and his immediate family fled Burma in 1969 and eventually settled in the United States.

But Nu was forced to leave the U.S. in 1974.