Photo/Illutration Pyae Lyan Aung speaks with reporters outside the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau on June 22 after submitting his refugee application. (Hajimu Takeda)

OSAKA--A soccer player from Myanmar who refused to return to his homeland in protest against the military coup there has won permission to remain in Japan for six months.

On July 2, Pyae Lyan Aung, 27, visited the Osaka Regional Immigration Services Bureau, where he was granted a “designated activities” visa that will allow him to stay in Japan and work for six months.

The Immigration Services Agency is expected to consider his application for refugee status during the interim. He said he fears returning to Myanmar because he would face persecution.

He came to Japan with the Myanmar national team for a World Cup qualifying round match against Japan. Pyae Lyan Aung made a three-finger salute, a gesture of resistance against the military coup and oppression in his home country, during the national anthem.

He subsequently refused to board the aircraft returning to Myanmar and requested asylum.

The Immigration Services Agency had already instituted a policy for Myanmar nationals who did not want to return home due to the unrest there. Such individuals are granted six- to 12-month stays with a visa similar to the one given to Pyae Lyan Aung.

Speaking to reporters after receiving his visa, Pyae Lyan Aung said, “I am grateful to the Japanese government and everyone who helped me.”