Rangoon Lawmaker Proposes Crackdown on Illegal Businesses Run by Foreigners

By Moe Myint 5 October 2016

RANGOON — A National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker in the Rangoon Division parliament, U Win Maung, submitted a proposal on Tuesday for government action against “over 100 illegal businesses” run by “foreigners” in his constituency in Hlaing Tharyar Township.

The lawmaker stated that some of these businesses have been operating over “decades,” with complicit locals transferring assets to “foreigners,” who are in breach of visa, foreign investment, and municipal laws.

Hlaing Tharyar is a sprawling industrial area on the outskirts of the city of Rangoon, which has attracted tens of thousands of migrants from rural areas of Burma, many of whom are unregistered and occupy slum settlements, and work in factories sometimes run by foreign nationals.

The 2012 Foreign Investment Law—which is to be merged with the 2013 Myanmar Citizens Investment Law and modified under a new Myanmar Investment Law, to be enacted by the end of the year—prohibits or restricts foreign business from operating in sectors that could deny locals jobs and opportunities.

U Win Maung said the illegal businesses evade tax, costing the government large amounts of income, and sell contraband smuggled over Burma’s borders, such as mobile phones and accessories, on a large scale. He also claimed the “foreigners” invest in KTV karaoke bars, casinos, restaurants and massage parlours, where illicit activities including prostitution are known to take place.

He said the “unlawful foreign businessmen” take advantage of legal and administrative “loopholes,” as well as “corrupt government officials,” to pursue their interests in Burma, which do not benefit locals.

After the Tuesday parliament session, U Win Maung told The Irrawaddy that most of the “illegal” businesses are owned by Chinese nationals, with some by Koreans and Indians.

U Win Maung presented a slideshow to the divisional parliament, in which he profiled a “foreigner” running an illegal real estate business leasing apartments to locals.

He concluded that when the Burmese government began to pursue more free-market policies, “trash passed through the window together with fresh air.”

He called on the government to “demolish” these businesses, in order to “help” locals.

U Myint Thaung, Minister of Planning and Finance for Rangoon Division, said they would take action against any law-breaking foreigners in a step-by-step manner, first “warning” them, then imposing any tax due, before closing down their operations and adding their names to a “blacklist.”

Another divisional lawmaker representing Ahlone Township, Daw Yin Yin Myint, seconded U Win Maung’s proposal and the NLD-dominated Rangoon parliament voted to continue the debate on Thursday.