National / Social Issues

Thai teen ordered to leave Japan gets permit to stay another year

Kyodo

A Japan-born Thai teen in Yamanashi Prefecture has been granted special permission to stay in Japan for another year despite receiving a deportation order in 2014, a source says.

“Perhaps the … authorities recognized that he is settled into the region,” said a supporter of 17-year-old Won Utinan, now in his third year of high school in Kofu. A petition calling on the government to let him stay has drawn thousands of signatures.

The Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau has not revealed why it decided to grant the special permit, dated Thursday.

“Until now I needed an approval even to go outside the prefecture. I am happy that I can now act freely and also have time to think about my … future,” Utinan said.

Utinan was born in 2000 to Thai parents who came to Japan in 1995 but did not have legal residency. Because his parents moved from place to place to avoid being detected, he could not go to school. But with help from a support group in Kofu, Utinan acquired Japanese skills at age 12 and started to attend school in 2013.

Eventually, Utinan and his mother reported themselves to the immigration bureau, requesting permission to stay, but the bureau had them deported in 2014. Although his mother returned to Thailand, Utinan sued to invalidate the deportation order but lost in both the low and high courts. After withdrawing his appeal to the Supreme Court, Utinan requested a re-examination of his case.