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Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it will relax visa rules for former citizens who left the country for political reasons, in a move that could affect thousands of exiles who settled in foreign countries during the decades of military rule.
In an interview with state media on Thursday, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kyaw Tin said the ministry has a 100-day programme that aims to relax visa restrictions on Burmese-born holders of foreign passports. He said the plan is to make it easier for former citizens to stay longer so they can use their skills to help rebuild the country.
“We are working to extend the duration of social visas issued to former citizens from the current 28 days to three or six months, and we are also negotiating with other concerned ministries to relax certain regulations to speed up the visa application process,” said Kyaw Tin.
“We are also negotiating to invite former citizens with overseas experience and professional skills in the fields of business and education to utilise their human resources in the nation building,” he added.
Also on the ministry’s agenda for the next 100 days is a plan to remove former citizens from a blacklist barring them from returning to Burma for their political beliefs. Under the former military junta, hundreds of prominent activists were added to the list of so-called “destructive elements” who faced arrest and long prison sentences if they returned to Burma.
Since 1988, when the army crushed a student-led uprising against military rule, thousands of Burmese nationals have settled in the West, many becoming citizens of the US, Australia, Canada and EU countries.
Kyaw Tin said the Foreign Ministry, which is currently led by Aung San Suu Kyi, would also seek to make Burmese embassies more effective at protecting the rights of Burmese citizens abroad.
He added that ambassadors and diplomatic officials would be instructed to attend workshops to learn about the new government’s policy changes.