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Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007
Myanmar minority Rohingyans sue to reverse refugee refusal
By JUN HONGO
Seven members of a Myanmar ethnic minority appeared in court Wednesday to ask for asylum, saying they face severe persecution if forced to return there.
The people from the Rohingya ethnic minority are seeking in their lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court that the government revoke its denial of refugee status and grant them asylum in Japan.
"In Myanmar, (Rohingyans) are snatched off the streets by the army and taken away for forced labor," a 28-year-old plaintiff, who asked to remain anonymous, told reporters after the trial's first session. "Before arriving in Japan, I escaped to Bangladesh. I learned there that my father had been killed in Myanmar" by the military junta.
Some 3 million Rohingyans, who are minority Muslims, reside in southwest Myanmar. The country's ruling junta has not recognized them as citizens and they have been denied basic human rights, including access to education and marriage without government permission.
"The military junta will hold us in prison for seven years if we visit a neighboring town without their permission," a 31-year-old plaintiff added. "We were forced to leave Myanmar. There is no place for us to return."
Taro Takahashi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said many Myanmar natives seeking asylum in Japan have at times been detained for more than a year before obtaining provisional status. Winning recognition as a refugee has been difficult as well.
Myanmar people have filed 535 applications for refugee status since 1992, but only 132, including some Rohingyans, have been granted asylum, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.