RANGOON — The names of some 600 foreign and Burmese nationals were removed from Burma’s blacklist, the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.
A move that was pledged by Union minister Thein Swe as part of his ministry’s 100-day plan, led to the removal of 607 names—more than 200 Burmese and 300 foreigners—from the blacklist, according to the ministry.
The recent list of names constitutes only about 7.5 percent of a previously existing blacklist of more than 8,000, and according to local newspaper 7Day Daily’s report on Monday, the recent list excluded those who were wanted by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
The ministry’s department of immigration and population told The Irrawaddy that the ministry has handed the list over to other concerned ministries, such as home affairs and foreign affairs, and it would continue to remove the names of those who “serve for the good merit of the country.” The department refused to provide further details regarding the list of removals.
Burma’s then-ruling military junta and quasi-civilian government previously blacklisted people who were deemed political threats to the country’s stability and national security.
Former President Thein Sein’s administration removed more than 2,000 names from a blacklist of more than 6,000 in 2012—a year into his quasi-civilian rule. The names included many exiled pro-democracy activists, foreign journalists and political critics. Actress Michelle Yeoh, who played the role of Burma’s then opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the film The Lady; Suu Kyi’s two sons; and Benedict Rogers, author of the book “Unmasking Burma’s Tyrant”—the biography of military dictator Than Shwe, were also removed.
Dr. Sein Win, former chairman of Burma’s “government in exile”; Aung Din of the US Campaign for Burma; Zipporah Sein, secretary of the Karen National Union; Dr. Cynthia Maung, founder and director of the Mae Tao Clinic; Bo Kyi, Tate Naing and other members of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP); Aung Moe Zaw of the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS); and Moe Thee Zun and Dr. Naing Aung, former leaders of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), an armed group formed in the wake of the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1988, were also removed from the list during Thein Sein’s administration.
Despite the reforms, some names were added again to the blacklist by the former government, according to Aung Moe Zaw of the DPNS. Although he is optimistic about the moves undertaken by the current government—led by the President Htin Kyaw and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi—he said the government should welcome all exiled activists back during this critical period, when they can contribute to the country’s democratic transition.
“The government should remove all names of those who were put on the blacklist due to their political or dissident beliefs, unconditionally,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Nearly 60 representatives from some 40 civil society organizations (CSOs) based on Burma’s borders sent an open letter to State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, requesting the disclosure of the names of activists who remain on the blacklist and that necessary guidelines be set to restore their original citizenship and allow them to take part in the country’s transition process.
Thwel Zin Toe, a steering committee member of the Women’s League of Burma, one of the signatory CSOs, said in the letter that the activists could support and strengthen the national reconciliation process, peace building and the transition to democracy.
The department of immigration and population said that those who want to restore their original citizenship must abandon any other current citizenship first because Burma doesn’t allow dual-citizenship.