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Passport restrictions have been relaxed - for some

Myanmar ex-political prisoners barred from travel

Thomas Toe, Yangon

Thomas Toe, Yangon

Published: April 05, 2013 06:28 AM GMT

Updated: April 08, 2013 03:43 AM GMT

Passport restrictions have been relaxed - for some
Political prisoners seen with family and friends in January 2012 outside Oo-Bo Prison, Mandalay (file photo)

Since he applied for a passport in October, Aye Aung has gone to the government office many times, but he is always told his application is “under consideration.”

Aye Aung, a former political prisoner, assumed he would get a passport easily, like an ordinary citizen. After all, he was released from prison in July and the government has reportedly relaxed restrictions on traveling. 

“I went to meet the higher ranking officer from the passport office, but he couldn’t give me a clear reason why I was restricted,” Aye Aung said.

Kyaw Zeya, an officer at the passport office in Yangon, insisted the Ministry of Home Affairs is gradually relaxing rules in granting passports to everyone, including former political prisoners.

“There is no discrimination. All people need to fill in their CV forms and former political prisoners just have to show documents received from the detention centers,” said Kyaw Zeya.

State-run media announced last month that passport application forms have been reduced from 14 to five pages. The education clearance has been annulled, and the waiting period has been reduced from 21 to 10 days.

Citizens are also no longer required to submit documents proving that they have fully paid their taxes. The only documents applicants now need to show are their national ID cards and household registration papers. But the fact remains that Aye Aung still has not received his. 

“I would like the authorities to let me know clearly the reason why they refused me and with what rule and law I’ve been forbidden,” he said. “There should be transparency in good governance, and there should not be discrimination in the country anymore.”

According to a report last September by New York-based Human Rights Watch, Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs has refused to issue passports to many former political prisoners, including democracy and human rights activists, public interest lawyers, and journalists.

“The government of Myanmar should lift travel and other restrictions on freed political prisoners,” Human Rights Watch said at the time.

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Tun Myint Aung, a member of the 88 Generation Students group, said full rights should be given to all citizens, including former political prisoners.

“Restrictions will only bring obstacles for the development of the country,” Tun Myint said.

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