Myanmar Invites Citizens Abroad to Participate in ‘Nation-Building’

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 15 January 2020

YANGON—The Myanmar government has officially invited citizens and former citizens abroad to participate in state-building affairs including development, the creation of a federal Union and peacebuilding, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The ministry said on Monday that efficient management of the state’s human resources, both domestically and abroad, is central to achieving peace and development. The ministry has distributed forms to citizens and former citizens abroad and invited them to indicate which areas of state-building they would be interested in supporting, if any.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also invited citizens and former citizens abroad to use their skills to support state-building. During her trips overseas, Myanmar citizens abroad also proposed to participate in the state-building process, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During and after the 1988 democratic uprising in Myanmar, several thousand people fled to areas controlled by ethnic armed groups, as well as to Thailand, while thousands of others were imprisoned for years. Many who fled Myanmar in the 1988 uprising later became citizens of Western countries, some graduating from universities abroad.

But the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs raises questions, according to human rights advocate Aung Myo Min, Executive director of Equality Myanmar, as there are no policies to guarantee that returnees would be accepted as citizens.

Aung Myo Min left Myanmar after the ’88 uprising and stayed in Thailand for 22 years before moving to the Czech Republic and becoming a citizen. He returned to Myanmar in 2013.

”In returning and participating in nation-building, there are many difficulties regarding visas and regaining citizenship,” Aung Myo Min told The Irrawaddy.

He said that he had to wait for about six years for the Myanmar government to re-grant him citizenship.

He also said he worries about whether officials in the government with military backgrounds will be willing to accept returnees who have a history of political activity and allow them to participate in state-building efforts.

Daw Nyein Nyein Myint, deputy director of the Consular Division of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the department will wait to receive the responses of citizens abroad and then plan for their involvement, despite the lack of proper policies for returnees.

”If they come back to Myanmar voluntarily, we willingly remove limitations on affairs such as visas and citizenship,” said Daw Nyein Nyein Myint.

After the 2010 election, then-President U Thein Sein invited many political exiles abroad to return and allowed them to do so by removing their names from blacklists and granting amnesty to many, including many would-be political prisoners.

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