Despite a government announcement that more than 2,000 names were removed from the country’s blacklist, journalists and academics whose names were excised from the infamous directory are still unable to secure Burmese visas.
Bertil Lintner, who has written several books about the country and has been on the infamous blacklist since the 1980s, has yet to be given a visa since his name was removed from the list on 28 August.
“I’ve applied three times and I’ve sent them emails everyday,” said Lintner, adding that he’s tried to contact the Ministry of Information’s Deputy Minister Ye Htut and Deputy Directory Myint Kyaw directly.
“In the beginning they responded and said the application is on the minister’s desk”.
According to Lintner, others who were also supposedly removed from the list have also been unable to enter the country.
“I’m aware of at least five – journalists and academics,” said Lintner.
“They will get their visas issued within an appropriate time-frame – in like one or two weeks’ time,” Deputy Directory Myint Kyaw told DVB.
The deputy director said the delay was caused by confusion concerning which ministry should be handling the visa, although the official admitted that journalists’ visas are the responsibility of the MOI.
“We will pass on their applications to [concerned officials] through the director general and will notify a concerned Burmese embassy abroad once they get approval,” said Myint Kyaw. “Our response is really fast – as you probably know.”
While the government has made a great deal of noise ahead of President Thein Sein’s visit to the US with the release of more than 500 prisoners this week and the removal of more than 2,000 names from the blacklist, the reality on the ground is far different.
“It’s still a problem for the Burmese government to [allow for] the free flow of foreign journalists into the country,” said Reporters Without Borders Benjamin Ismail who runs the organisation’s Asia desk.
“They still want to control who is entering and who’s not.”
While Ismail said administrative shortcomings might have been behind some of the delays that have occurred, these excuses will not be acceptable for much longer.
“If in the next two weeks or month and [Lintner] still hasn’t gotten an answer from the Ministry of Information or the embassy where he applied from then they won’t be able to say that they are busy or there’s an administrative problem, ” said Ismail.
“We will have no other choice than to consider that it’s a deliberate refusal of the visa, which is disguised in the absence of an answer.”
-Peter Aung provided additional reporting.