Teacher on watchlist deported
Even as the new government reveals it has trimmed over 600 names from the notorious catalogue of undesirables, political dissidents still come head-to-head with restrictions put in place by previous regimes.
A FORMER 88 Generation student turned English teacher was deported shortly after he arrived at Yangon International Airport yesterday as officials informed him of his status on a government watchlist.
The new government has been trimming names from the registry of undesirables, with more than 600 removed since June, an immigration official told The Myanmar Times yesterday. But U Maung Maung One, a US citizen, abruptly discovered he had been added to the catalogue only after his international voyage.
He had obtained a visa from the Myanmar embassy in Washington, DC, prior to his arrival yesterday, according to police at the airport.
“I don’t know why the embassy approved his visa. The embassy should know that he is on the watchlist,” said U Htay Hlaing, deputy director general of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population.
According to U Htay Hlaing, the English teacher was added to the list after his previous visit to the country last year, when he violated the provisions of his tourist visa by offering language classes.
In a similar case a day earlier, two Pakistani nationals were fined and deported after they held discussions on Islamic Sufism at mosques in Yangon.
The new government announced in June that it would begin reviewing the blacklist with the aim of allowing political exiles to return home.
The long list of undesirables was composed by successive military regimes, which forced many citizens into exile, primarily taking up residence in the United States, Australia or Europe.
Over 250 Myanmar citizens and 350 foreign nationals have been struck from the list, U Htay Hlaing said. He added, however, that many names remain, but would not specify the exact number.
“We have no plan to publicly release the names of the people removed from the list because it could lead to a disturbance for those people if we breach their privacy. We will inform the people we remove from the blacklist directly,” said the deputy director general.
U Aye Kyaw, managing director of Rubyland Travels and Tours who was blacklisted last August by the Myanmar Tourism Federation at the behest of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that his was among the names recently dropped from the list.
“My business suffered because I was on the blacklist,” he said. “The blacklist is a violation of people’s rights.”
Several staff members from Burma Campaign UK believe they are still enumerated on the list as they have not yet been informed of their removal. In June, Burma Campaign UK wrote to the government asking for confirmation of which staff members remain on the roster and which have been removed.
“The NLD-led government should publish the blacklist and explain why human rights activists remain on it. Most governments have some form of blacklist to stop criminals or people who are a threat to the country, but people should not be blacklisted just because the government doesn’t like what they say,” Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, told The Myanmar Times.
The government of U Thein Sein scrubbed nearly 2000 names from the blacklist in 2012, including politicians, foreign journalists, pro-democracy activists and armed group leaders. Members of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners U Tate Naing and U Bo Kyi, former prime minister in exile U Sein Win, and Karen National Union (KNU) deputy leader Naw Zipporah Sein were all removed from the blacklist in 2012.
However, many people found their names to be entered multiple times with slightly different spellings.
Even after their names were removed from the list, some dissidents continued to face issues like visa rejections, or were forced to sign pledges that they would give up politics, or forfeit permanent residence eligibility.
U Sein Win, an exiled political leader and first cousin of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was slated to return to Myanmar in July in order to attend Martyrs’ Day, but refused to sign any agreement of bargain for his trip, according to his brother, U Htwe Win.
“My brother won’t come back if the government makes him sign a pledge. Now he is in America,” said U Htwe Win.
The AAPP’s joint secretary U Bo Kyi said he continues to face problems with his application for permanent residence, which has yet to be accepted.
“The President’s Office of the current government informed me that the permanent residence application is still being processed. This new government also has no transparency,” he said. “If they did, they would release the blacklist data publicly.” – Additional reporting by Toe Wai Aung
People stand silhouetted against a window looking out onto the tarmac at Yangon International Airport.