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Myanmar's famous blacklist bites the dust

Another step forward as Myanmar scraps blacklist

The Myanmar president's website reveals all the blacklisted names The Myanmar president's website reveals all the blacklisted names
  • Daniel Wynn, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • August 31, 2012
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Even though Moe Thee Zun had been on a blacklist of people banned from Myanmar for more than 20 years, he has spent years in the country.

An enemy of the state in the truest sense, Moe Thee Zun is the leader of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), an insurgent group that fled Yangon after a failed uprising in 1988 and then fought the army as a guerilla on the periphery of the country, often using brutal methods themselves.

Tomorrow he returns to Myanmar officially for the first time since the end of 1988 and, after years of fighting the government, he is going to sit down and talk to his enemies.

“Our main topics of discussion will be about peace, fundamental political, national reconstruction and the safe return of all Burmese exiles to Myanmar and their right to participate in the political process,” he said.

His was one of more than 2,000 names removed from a blacklist of about 6,000 people including other insurgents – or “terrorists” as they have been called by Myanmar – journalists, activists, human rights campaigners and others who have annoyed the government over the years.

There is James Mawdsley, the Christian activist from the UK who performed daring – some have argued naïve – solo protests in Myanmar and was subsequently arrested and tortured.

Other names taken off the list include John Yettaw, the American who swam across Inya Lake in Yangon to Aung San Suu Kyi’s garden and by doing so prompted the government to officially extend her term under house arrest.

Both of Suu Kyi’s sons – Kim and Alexander Aris – are also on the list of people now allowed into Myanmar, although Kim has visited a number of times since his mother was released from house arrest in November, 2010.

Famous names include Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be US secretary of state, Dr Kim Dae-jung, South Korea’s former president and the man often referred to as the “Nelson Mandela of Asia,” and Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former prime minister of Norway.

Others on the list are downright bizarre. Sonny Bono, the singer famous for his duo with Cher who later became a member of the US House of Representatives, is on there. He died in a skiing accident in 1998. The whole of McGill University in Quebec, Canada was just removed from the blacklist too, presumably for its Myanmar activism which includes helping minority groups along the border with Thailand.

Bertil Lintner, a journalist covering Myanmar who has written numerous books on the country including on the bloody crackdown on protestors in 1998, also saw his name appear.

“I feel very good about it and will come to your country as soon as I can,” he said in an emailed response.

Debbie Stothard, an activist with the Alternative ASEAN Network who has long worked with Myanmar exiles, was another name on the list but she said the blacklist is still 4,000 names long and many of those are Myanmar citizens.

“I am ... concerned that the majority of Burmese activists including ethnic leaders still appear to be blacklisted,” she said. “It is more important for Burma that they can have a visit to their homeland.”

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