Regime Imposes New Travel Restrictions on Myanmar Citizens

By The Irrawaddy 8 March 2022

The junta-controlled Ministry of Immigration and Population has imposed new travel restrictions on Myanmar citizens, making national registration cards (NRCs), also known as citizenship scrutiny cards, necessary for travel as of April 1.

Since last year’s coup, the military regime has continuously imposed new restrictions on the fundamental rights of citizens. The junta did not elaborate on the reason behind the latest restriction, saying only that it was introduced out of necessity.

Under the new requirement, NRCs are required for people to travel or to stay anywhere apart from their homes.

Many believe the latest restriction is targeted at leaders and members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), striking government employees, People’s Defense Force (PDF) fighters, student and anti-regime activists, and journalists who are on the run or in hiding to avoid being detained.

Just two weeks after the February 2021 coup, the junta reintroduced the overnight guest registration system, which requires citizens to report to authorities if they stay overnight at an address other than the one officially registered on their NRCs or household registration certificates. That ensures that people have to reveal themselves when they show their NRCs at the relevant ward administration office. For those on the junta’s wanted list, reporting to the authorities effectively means turning yourself in voluntarily.

The law had been used to hunt down political activists under the previous military regime, as it grants authorities the right to carry out household inspections without the need for a warrant.

The junta immigration ministry is led by U Khin Yi, a former Myanmar military general, who led brutal crackdowns on protesters during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, when he was the Myanmar Police chief under the then regime headed by former dictator Senior General Than Shwe.

U Khin Yi also served as the immigration minister in U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government.

He is also the vice chairman of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party. Both before and after last year’s military takeover, he organized a series of pro-military rallies during which so-called military sympathizers went on the rampage in Yangon, punching and stabbing those who denounced them.

Less than two weeks after the coup, the junta also revoked provisions in the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens, enacted in 2017 under the NLD government, that require an arrest warrant and the presence of ward or village administrators and witnesses to detain people. The regime did so to make it easier to arrest striking civil servants charged with incitement, as well as other critics of military rule.

Since the coup, the junta has committed dozens of other rights violations such as the imposition of internet blackouts and inspecting cell phones and arresting their owners if content critical of the regime is found on their phones. The regime has also sealed off the houses of members of the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and PDFs, as well as their supporters, and revoked the citizenship of some NUG members and their supporters.

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