A 17-year-old Thai teen born in Japan is fighting to stay in the country after a court’s decision to deport him.
Utinan Won was born and raised in Japan. His native tongue is Japanese. Just like his peers, he enjoyed playing video games and watching videos online.
The problem: Won is the son of visa overstayers.
Lonsan Phaphakdee, a Thai native, overstayed her visa after being tricked by job brokers who brought her to Japan in 1995. Won’s father, whom he has no memory of, also overstayed his visa. He was Thai, too.
Lonsan gave birth to Won in 2000. She moved between Thai communities across central Japan as Won grew up, afraid that authorities would catch her. Won started going to school only at junior high school.
Lonsan eventually thought of improving Won’s status. She turned herself before the Tokyo Immigration Bureau in 2013, which, unfortunately, determined their nightmare the following year: they must go back to Thailand.
Won recalled (via The Japan Times):
“I was shocked. My brain went completely blank. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I wondered if it was because I did not attend elementary school. I asked myself over and over again, but I couldn’t figure out why I had to leave.”
The mother-and-son asked the central government to cancel the deportation order in January 2015, but by June 2016, the Tokyo District Court turned them down.
In December 2016, the Tokyo High Court maintained the previous decision and ruled that they must settle in Thailand.
The legal ordeal was too much for Won. Thankfully, he has the complete support of his classmates, teachers and other people aware of his case. He said they made “great efforts” to help him stay.
“Thailand is not a place where I can return. It’s not that I don’t like Thailand, because that’s my mother’s home country. But for me, Japan is my only home,” Won said.