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Myanmar revokes passports of Singapore-based activists

The junta move is part of 'political revenge' against supporters of shadowy National Unity Government, critics say
 Protesters hold signs in support of the National Unity Government (NUG) during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon’s Sanchaung township on April 27, 2021.

Protesters hold signs in support of the National Unity Government (NUG) during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon’s Sanchaung township on April 27, 2021. (Photo: STR/AFP)

Published: November 01, 2023 10:45 AM GMT
Updated: November 01, 2023 11:27 AM GMT

Myanmar nationals including anti-coup activists living in Singapore have expressed shock and dismay after their passports were allegedly revoked by the military junta in a move to “instill fear.”

Mae Kyaw Soe Nyunt, a Myanmar national living in Singapore said that she was caught off-guard after officials at the airport informed her that her passport was revoked, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Oct. 30.

“When I arrived at the airport, officials said my passport was no longer valid, so I could not travel,” Nyunt said.

“I told them the passport had not expired yet, but they said that, even so, the number was no longer valid and could no longer be used… They said it was ordered by my [country’s] embassy,” Nyunt added.

Nyunt claimed that she knew “three or four” other Myanmar nationals who had their passports revoked.

Singapore hosts around 300,000 Myanmar nationals – with valid work permits or permanent residency permits – who have been allegedly vocal against the junta that seized power through a military coup on Feb. 1, 2021.

In Dec. 2021, Myanmar’s junta began revoking the passports and citizenship of members of the shadow National Unity Government and high-profile opposition leaders in what critics have called “a form of political revenge.”

The affected Myanmar nationals pointed out that the suspension of passports was an unprecedented move usually reserved for the high-profile opposition leaders and members of the exiled shadowy government.

Among those affected, the Myanmar nationals in Singapore with a valid permanent residence permit are safe and can continue their stay, however, the revoked passport prevents them from leaving Singapore.

Indiscriminate targeting of Myanmar nationals

An unnamed Myanmar citizen claimed that there has been an indiscriminate targeting of citizens and “more people than expected” were affected by the move.

“It’s a lot, according to the information that I received,” the unnamed source said.

The source alleged that some of the pro-junta sympathizers were behind the move and had shared details of the anti-junta sympathizers.

“There are people who have sent the list of names [of those who support the anti-junta movement] to the regime. Whether it is true or not, your passport will be revoked if your name is on the list,” the source added.

An anti-junta activist in Singapore who declined to be named fearing retaliation pointed out that Myanmar embassy staff in the country had denied receiving any orders to revoke passports from the junta.

“There is a question as to whether the junta is directing [Singapore’s] immigration instead of directing its embassy,” the unnamed activist said.

“Currently, some people [can] renew their passports at the embassy, so they must not be on the blacklist,” the activist added.

Police complaints in Singapore against Myanmar activists

Reportedly, the Myanmar junta has resorted to filing complaints against pro-democracy activists with the Singapore police based on tips from their informants.

A third unnamed source, whose passport was revoked told RFA that the junta’s crackdown on Myanmar activists was aimed at “instilling fear,” but those who are being persecuted “will not back down.”

“They are trying to destroy our lives in various ways,” the source said.

“Because of their actions, the strength [of the anti-regime movement] may be lessened. But it won’t stop people’s support for the movement,” the source added.

Besides Singapore, other Asian nations including Thailand, South Korea and Japan have a sizeable Myanmar expatriate community.

Those in other countries have not reported any issues with their passports.

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