• Kyodo

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About 10 Myanmar prodemocracy activists, who are in Japan illegally, plan to apply for refugee status as soon as Monday to mark the 61st birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi, their supporters said Saturday.

The activists live in Aichi Prefecture and have participated in demonstrations in Nagoya and Tokyo calling for democratization in Myanmar, the supporters said.

Some were held and tortured by Myanmar’s military junta for their involvement in the prodemocracy movement before coming to Japan, they said.

“They face the risk of being persecuted by the military regime if Japanese immigration authorities take them into custody and deport them back,” said a lawyer for the activists.

Lawyers and supporters have been working to get the activists’ papers ready, but the applications could be delayed, the lawyer said.

According to the Justice Ministry, 709 Myanmar men and women have applied for refugee status between January 1982, when Japan’s refugee certification program was put into place, and last December. Ninety of them have been granted such status.

By country, Myanmar ranks first in terms of the number of refugee applicants in Japan.

In late May, the military junta extended Suu Kyi’s house arrest for another year despite widespread international criticism.

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