Burma to Relax Visa Rules

By Saw Yan Naing 30 April 2012

Tourists and business travelers from the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will be the first to benefit from a visa-on-arrival scheme to be introduced by Burma in June, the country’s immigration minister said on Sunday.

Speaking to reporters in Naypyidaw, Immigration Minister Khin Yi said that visitors from the other nine members of the 10-member regional grouping would be able to visit Burma for up to 70 days on the new visas.

The visas, which will cost US $40, will later be available to citizens of other countries, he added.

This will be the second time that Burma has introduced a visa-on-arrival system. In 2010, they were offered until several months before elections were held in November of that year.

The move is seen as the latest sign of Burma’s improved relations with the outside world since a quasi-civilian Burmese government assumed power in early 2011.

According to residents of Rangoon, Burma’s largest city and the main point of entry for most overseas travelers, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of visitors since a series of reforms was initiated last year.

In addition to tourists, businessmen have been flocking to the country in search of investment opportunities. Even Chinese investors, who have long enjoyed good relations with Burma’s rulers, have been coming in increasing numbers, according to sources in the hotel and tourism industry.

To meet this growing demand, international airlines are looking to add new flights to Rangoon.

Thailand’s Bangkok Airways recently announced that it will begin flying three times a day from Bangkok to Rangoon in October, up from the current two daily flights.

In mid-April, Thai Airways also disclosed that it will add a third flight to its daily Bangkok–Rangoon  service.