Myanmar Junta Restricts Air Travel for Foreigners

By The Irrawaddy 8 May 2023

The military regime has banned foreigners from traveling by air to certain towns in Myanmar, according to tour operators.

The restrictions are reportedly part of joint efforts by Myanmar, Thailand and China to combat online scams and gambling operations being run by foreigners who have illegally entered the country.

As of Saturday, foreigners are barred from domestic flights linking Yangon, Naypyitaw, Myitkyina and other airports to Lashio and Tachilek in Shan State, unless they get prior approval from regime officials.

A local tour operator told The Irrawaddy: “The letter was sent by airlines to us. The restriction targets all foreigners in the country, both those holding permanent residency or those doing business. The restriction is indefinite.”

Foreigners including staff of United Nations agencies, embassies and international non-governmental organizations must seek advance approval from the junta’s Hotels and Tourism Ministry to travel on the restricted domestic routes.

Criminal gangs based in China and Thailand exploited instability following the 2021 coup to flood into Myanmar border towns such as Lashio and Tachilek, said residents. The towns are now riddled with crime, ranging from kidnapping and robbery to online scams, prostitution and drug trafficking, according to locals.

The criminal operations are being funded by Chinese tycoons.

The flight restrictions come just a few days after Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang visited Naypyitaw and urged the junta to take measures to ensure stability and development in border regions, where Beijing has considerable investments.