For­eign­ers on a tourist visa re­stricted to ho­tels

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Ei Ei Thu

Apart­ment own­ers who rent to trav­ellers on tourist visas will face penal­ties, while tourists could face de­por­ta­tion if they are found to be rent­ing apart­ments.

YAN­GON land­lords will face penal­ties if they rent rooms or apart­ments to for­eign­ers hold­ing a tourist visa, U Zaw Aye Maung, the mil­i­tary-ap­pointed re­gion min­is­ter for im­mi­gra­tion, told The Myan­mar Times.

By-laws writ­ten for Myan­mar’s 1947 Im­mi­gra­tion Act stip­u­late that for­eign vis­i­tors on a tourist visa must stay in ho­tels, he said.

Only per­ma­nent res­i­dents and for­eign­ers hold­ing busi­ness visas are al­lowed to rent apart­ments or houses within wards – an ad­min­is­tra­tive sub-di­vi­sion of cities - said U Zaw Aye Maung.

In the past these rules were rarely en­forced, but a sharp rise in the num­ber of for­eign vis­i­tors to Yan­gon meant it was im­por­tant that land­lords and tourists follow the rules, he added.

“It is not a new law it was en­acted a long time ago,” said U Zaw Aye Maung. “But the rea­son we are re­mind­ing peo­ple is that now more tourists are stay­ing in houses and apart­ments. We can’t take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their se­cu­rity if they aren’t stay­ing in a ho­tel.”

The num­ber of tourists and ex­pats ar­riv­ing in Yan­gon for re­cre­ation and busi­ness has risen in re­cent years. Ho­tels projects have blos­somed in re­sponse, and there are now so many ho­tels in key ar­eas that the gov­ern­ment has de­cided to place re­stric­tions on new devel­op­ment.

But de­spite the surge in the num­ber of ho­tel rooms, many in­di­vid­u­als and groups en­ter­ing the coun­try on tourist visas opt to rent rooms or apart­ments from lo­cals, which re­main a cheaper op­tion, said real es­tate con­sul­tant U Aung Min.

“Hardly any real es­tate agents or home own­ers are in­ter­ested in what kind of visa for­eign­ers look­ing to rent are hold­ing,” he said. “They want to rent to for­eign­ers be­cause of the higher fees.”

But U Zaw Aye Maung said the au­thor­i­ties will take ac­tion against land­lords and for­eign­ers in vi­o­la­tion of the rules and added that tourists could face de­por­ta­tion.

He said the onus was on home­own­ers to check what kind of visa a for­eign vis­i­tor holds be­fore rent­ing out a room. He could not be reached, how­ever, for fur­ther com­ment on what the penal­ties for lax land­lords will be or how grey ar­eas, such as vis­it­ing foriegn friends or rooms let on the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar on­line rental mar­ket­place Airbnb, will be treated.

U Zaw Aye Maung ad­mit­ted, how­ever, that en­forc­ing the long-ig­nored law will be a chal­lenge given the size of Yan­gon and the ris­ing num­ber of ex­pats.

“There are over 7 mil­lion peo­ple in Yan­gon and 45 town­ships and it has many streets and roads,” he said. “Town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tors can­not know how many ex­pats are liv­ing within the ward, but that is the duty of wards ad­min­is­tra­tors. We can’t check every street within every town­ship, but if some­one in­forms us tourists are liv­ing on a road or in a unit we’ll in­ves­ti­gate and take ac­tion.”

U Myint Kyaing, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at the Min­istry for Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion in Nay Pyi Taw, said the re­stric­tion is also in­cluded in reg­u­la­tions at­tached to Myan­mar’s 1982 Cit­i­zens Act.

Ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cer at the im­mi­gra­tion depart­ment, who asked not to be named, the tourist visa ap­pli­ca­tion also stip­u­lates that a for­eigner can­not rent a pri­vate apart­ment.

“A for­eigner that en­ters on a busi­ness visa can stay any­where he wants, and also can rent an apart­ment or a house,” he said. “But for­eign­ers on tourist visas are not al­lowed to en­ter into rental agree­ments like that.”

The gov­ern­ment has also de­cided to get tough on guest­houses, ap­ply­ing a law un­der which own­ers who rent rooms to for­eign guests with­out a li­cence can be jailed for three years. Un­der the same law, only guest­houses that can pro­vide cer­tain fa­cil­i­ties – in­clud­ing an en suite bath­room – can re­ceive a li­cence.

Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon

A for­eign tourist looks at prod­ucts at Bo­gyoke Mar­ket. The gov­ern­ment says home­own­ers can­not rent to for­eign­ers on tourist visas.

TIN YADANAR TUN

ZAY YAR LIN

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