RANGOON — National League for Democracy (NLD) divisional lawmaker U Than Naing Oo called on the Rangoon Division government to investigate the legal status of foreign workers in the city, who he believed were flouting visa regulations and harming local interests.
In the Rangoon Division parliament on Thursday, U Than Naing Oo, who represents Pabedan Township (constituency-1), claimed that many skilled foreign workers on “social” visas were employed in the construction sector, getting paid more to do the same jobs as locals, and that some were running small shops, in apparent violation of laws that prevent foreigners from operating small businesses in competition with locals.
He said he had seen “evidence” from nongovernmental organizations that are in contact with foreign workers.
The lawmaker also accused these “foreigners” of anti-social behavior, saying he had witnessed “Chinese men drinking beers on the sidewalk”—to which the Arakanese Ethnic Affairs Minister U Zaw Aye Maung responded, “citizens should bring them [drinkers] to the police station.”
The Arakanese ethnic affairs minister, speaking on behalf of the divisional government, stated that 3,928 foreigners were currently working in Rangoon on business visas, having received permission to work from various ministries.
The Burmese government offers 12 kinds of visas, including social, tourist, business, religious, educational and journalist. Thai nationals are allowed to enter Burma visa free for a certain period; this allowance is not extended to Chinese nationals. After an initial three-month period, visas covering work can be extended by six-month followed by 12-month and then 22-month periods.
Minister U Zaw Aye Maung claimed that candidates are rigorously examined, often by different ministries and sometimes at the Union level, before permission to work is granted.
U Aung Myo, who represents Sanchaung Township (constituency-1), asked the divisional government to disclose the amount of income tax received by foreigners working in Rangoon. Those earning less than 2 million kyats (US$1,573) are not taxed; those earning 2-5 million kyats a month are taxed at 5 percent; 5-10 million kyats at 10 percent; 10-20 million kyats at 15 percent; 20-30 million kyats at 20 percent; and over 30 million kyats at 25 percent.
Minister U Zaw Aye Maung said that over the 2015-16 fiscal year the Rangoon divisional government collected 61.298 billion kyats (US$48.2 million) in tax from 6,596 foreigners working in the city.
He warned against locals collaborating with unscrupulous foreigners in setting up businesses—so as to get around legal barriers to foreigners competing with locals—for instance by allowing the businesses to be registered in their name: “Don’t give your name to foreigners for a little money,” he said. “Be faithful to the nation. Liars will come here to exploit.”
Lawmaker U Than Naing Oo told journalists after the parliamentary session that he had learned that the Junction Square construction project, located in Sanchaung Township, and the Junction City project in Pabedan Township, were together employing “almost a thousand” foreign workers. On enquiring at the township Immigration departments, he was told that many of the workers were on social visas.
He said he was not fully satisfied with the response of minister U Zaw Aye Maung, because he did not say whether the government was going to investigate these construction projects.
He said he was calling for the government “to take effective action on the ground.”