Teacher on watch­list de­ported

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - Yeemon­tun@mm­times.com YE MON

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

Photo: Aung Myin Ye Zaw

Peo­ple stand sil­hou­et­ted against a win­dow look­ing out onto the tar­mac at Yangon In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

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