Eight Myanmar nationals seek refugee status in Japan

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TOKYO, Oct 17 (Reuters) Eight Myanmar nationals applied for refugee status in Japan today, an immigration official said, a day after Tokyo cut aid to the impoverished state in protest at a crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

An official at the immigration office in Nagoya, central Japan, said all eight were men, but declined to give further details.

Kyodo news agency said four of the men were working in central Japan while taking part in pro-democracy activities with other Myanmar nationals in Japan.

The other four were planning to take part in the pro-democracy activities in the future, it said.

The men will undergo a months-long inspection process, including interviews, before a final decision is handed down by the Justice Minister, the immigration official said.

Japan decided to cut 550 million yen (4.7 million dollars) in aid to Myanmar yesterday following the junta's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last month in which a Japanese video journalist was killed.

Japan has withheld new aid to Myanmar since democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in 2003, but it had funded emergency health projects and provided some training and technological transfers.

There were 145 Myanmar refugees in Japan at the end of last year, the Justice Ministry said.

(1 dollars=116.59 Yen) REUTERS RN AS1245

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