Myanmar’s Shan United football team denied visa to Australia for AFC Cup match

The club has come under fire by activists over the owner’s alleged business ties to the Myanmar military

The Australian government has barred Myanmar’s Shan United football club from travelling to Australia for an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup match against the Sydney team, the Macarthur Bulls. 

The visa denial came ahead of a game scheduled for Thursday, which follows a September match that the two clubs played in Myanmar at Yangon’s Thuwunna Stadium. 

According to a statement from Macarthur FC’s chief, Sam Krslovic, “Seven days prior to the fixture, being last week, we were informed that Shan United will not be granted entry visas to Australia by the Federal government. Failure to play this game will undoubtedly result in sanctions against the club and Football Australia.”

The match has subsequently been relocated to Thailand.

The Macarthur Bulls previously drew criticism of their own when they visited Myanmar against the Australian government’s official travel advice for the late September match. 

In October, Justice For Myanmar (JFM) and the Myanmar Campaign Network filed a submission to the Australian immigration and foreign ministers urging them to deny visas to Shan United and to sanction the club’s owner, Kun Naung Myint Wai—who is also chairman of the Wa Minn Group of Companies—over alleged business ties to the Myanmar military. 

In the submission to the immigration and foreign ministers, shared with Myanmar Now, the organisations wrote that visas should be denied to Shan United “due to the Club’s connections with individuals and entities known for their involvement in human rights violations and business associations with the Myanmar military, including entities sanctioned by Australia.”

An Australian government spokesperson told the Australian Associated Press that they do not comment on individual visas. 

“The Australian government strongly condemns the ongoing repression and violence by the Myanmar regime,” the spokesperson said.

The Asian Football Confederation is Asia’s peak football body, and its members include Football Australia and the Myanmar Football Federation. The AFC’s current senior vice-president is Zaw Zaw, who is also the chairman of Max Myanmar, described by JFM as one of the country’s “biggest crony conglomerates” and which has interests in construction, transportation, rubber plantations, and banking.

A 2019 report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar identified Max Myanmar as a contributor to the military’s 2017 violent campaign against the Rohingya due to their involvement in the construction of processing sites—described as internment camps—and a two-mile border fence separating Myanmar from Bangladesh.

“Max Myanmar should be criminally investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for making a substantial and direct contribution to the commission of the crime against humanity of ‘other inhumane acts,’” the report said, alleging that the company was aware “of the substantial likelihood that the fence would contribute to the prevention of the displaced Rohingya population from returning to their homeland and community, thereby causing great suffering and anguish.”

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