RANGOON ¬– The Rangoon divisional government plans to relax restrictions on guesthouses and hostels, according to Rangoon mayor U Maung Maung Soe, yet Union laws barring international visitors from staying in such establishments remain intact.
U Maung Maung Soe said that in April, the divisional government would amend the 2013 municipal law which sets the requirements for issuing licenses to hotels, hostels, and guesthouses.
However, the mayor added that the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism (MOHT) guidelines, which prohibit guesthouses from receiving non-Burmese guests, should also be amended. This Union law takes precedence over regional laws and can only be changed in the Union Parliament.
At the Rangoon Division Parliament on Monday, lawmaker U Thawda Aung of Sanchaung Township asked if the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) had the power to make the distinction to allow guesthouses to receive foreigners. He also asked whether the authorities would take legal action against guesthouses that breach MOHL guidelines.
The mayor answered that small guesthouses and hostels are licensed only to host domestic travelers and that divisional government inspections have found that some are illegally hosting international visitors, although he did not give a figure.
In line with Article 19 of the 2013 Municipal Law, he said, they have issued operating licenses to 431 guesthouses and 319 hostels.
Guesthouse owners have to provide recommendations from township and quarter administrators, local police and fire departments, and an agreement from local residents before the divisional government can issue licenses, U Maung Maung Soe explained.
Businesses that are breaching MOHT guidelines would not be shut down, said the mayor, because both the regional and Union parliaments are considering amending the requirements for guesthouses.
“If guesthouses are found to be operating illegally, then the MOHT should take action in line with the law,” said U Thawda Aung. “The mayor should consider whether his response is [above the Union law or not].”
The lawmaker said that “replacing the word ‘domestic’ for ‘international’ in the divisional law could not solve the problem of guesthouses illegally hosting foreigners unless the MOHT amends the law at the Union level.”
After the parliamentary session, U Thawda Aung told The Irrawaddy he had found at least three guesthouses that were allowing foreigners to stay on their premises. Guesthouses that do not have licenses to host foreigners but still do so are evading taxes, he said.