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Wong used special powers to block Myanmar team visas

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Foreign Minister Penny Wong was directly involved in a decision to block Shan United from entering Australia, TDA has learned.
Shan United

Foreign Minister Penny Wong blocked a football team from entering Australia over its owner’s ties to a 2021 military coup in Myanmar.

A-League team Macarthur FC and Myanmar’s Shan United were due to play in Sydney on Thursday night. However, the game was moved to Thailand after Shan United players and officials were denied Australian visas.

TDA has learned that Wong played an active role in barring the visas to avoid undermining Australia’s foreign policy.

Myanmar

Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia. A military coup launched a decades-long totalitarian regime in 1962 plagued by internal conflict.

Anti-government protests in 1988 led to a violent crackdown that killed around 3,000 people.

A parliament was established in 2011. A military-aligned political party was defeated at a November 2020 election.

The 2021 coup

Despite the election results, Myanmar’s military intervened hours before the new parliament was due to gather in February 2021.

Since that coup was launched, the country has remained under military rule.

Leaders of the regime have been accused of human rights abuses and violence.

Who is Shan United?

Shan United and Macarthur FC both play in the AFC Cup — a competition comprised of 36 teams across Asia.

Without visas to grant Shan United entry to Australia, Macarthur might have been forced to forfeit the match. This could have resulted in penalties against the club from the Asian Football Confederation.

Football Australia arranged for the match to be played in Bangkok instead.

How are visas issued?

Before international sports teams can compete in Australia, they need to be granted a temporary activity visa from the Government.

While Wong doesn’t typically oversee these applications, the Foreign Minister can use special powers to intervene in matters of national interest.

Visa holders are required to meet a set of criteria before their application is approved, including character and security requirements.

Why did Wong intervene?

Shan United is owned by Kun Naung Myint Wai. He runs the Wa Minn Corporation, a company with strong ties to the Myanmar Government.

Wa Minn is also associated with the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a group that supported the 2021 coup.

The MEC was sanctioned by the Australian Government earlier this year for its role in the coup, and the “egregious human rights abuses”
that have followed.

Australian response

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told TDA the Government “strongly condemns the ongoing repression and violence by the Myanmar regime”.

DFAT said it urged the military in Myanmar to “open discussions to support civilian lives”.

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