Govt Removes Names from Blacklist, But Thousands Remain

By Lawi Weng, Political Prisoners 28 August 2012

In the latest sign that Burma’s government is relaxing its restrictions on citizens, state-run media reported on Tuesday that more than 2,000 people have been removed from a blacklist of enemies of the state.

The list, which includes human rights and democracy activists, journalists and business people, was shortened “in accord with the reforming system,” The New Light of Myanmar reported on Monday.

Despite the move, however, 4,083 names remain on the list of 6,165 citizens identified by Burma’s former ruling junta as potential threats to state security. Each of these individuals was “banned by the government in the national interest,” the report stated.

Although the blacklist includes both exiles and Burmese currently living in their native country, the report suggests that the move was aimed primarily at the former group. “Green light would be given to those Myanmar citizens who are currently in foreign countries enabling them to return home,” it said.

The announcement comes as the 88 Generation Students group has stepped up its criticism of the government for refusing to issue passports to former political prisoners.

According to Ko Ko Gyi, one of the leaders of the group, the Interior Ministry said that former political detainees must wait a year from their release date before they can be issued passports. Accusing the ministry of abusing its power, he said that it was for Parliament to decide who is entitled to a passport.

“They discriminate against us, even though we have the same rights as other citizens. They released us from prison, but they still shackle our feet,” said the prominent former political prisoner.

He acknowledged, however, that today’s announcement was a step in the right direction.

“We can say that taking names off of the blacklist is an improvement,” he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.