Burma has removed more than 2,000 people from an immigration blacklist, state media announced Tuesday, clearing the way for some prominent dissidents who fled the former military regime to return home amid the country’s burgeoning political reforms.
The names of 2,082 business entrepreneurs, journalists, student leaders, trade unionists and others were removed from the 6,165-person blacklist, allowing them to return to Burma, the Burmese-language version of the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.
They had been put on the list under the previous military junta in order “to safeguard the national interest,” it said.
But 4,083 people remain on the blacklist, which includes current and former Burmese citizens as well as foreigners.
Under decades of harsh rule by Burma’s military junta, which was replaced in March last year by President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government, millions of Burmese fled to escape blatant human rights abuses, a corrupted economy, and political repression.
Now some of those who left, including students who fled in droves after crackdowns on student-led anti-government protests in 1988, will be allowed to return, the New Light of Myanmar said.
Moe Thee Zun, one of the leaders of 1988 student protests and founder of the outlawed Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), is among those now allowed back, as is Aung Moe Zaw, DPNS’s current chairman.
Others taken off the blacklist include Federation of Trade Unions–Burma leader Maung Maung, and Nyo Ohn Myint, one of the leaders of the National League for Democracy–Liberated Areas, an offshoot of Aung San Suu Kyi’s formerly banned party that operates in Thailand–Burma border areas and abroad.
The move to trim the blacklist came a day after President Thein Sein announced the biggest cabinet reshuffle since taking power, switching up nine of 33 cabinet posts, including the key finance, information, industry, and national planning and economic development portfolios.
In May, Thein Sein urged the millions who had fled the nation to return, saying Burma needed them to work for the country’s development.
Since taking office, Thein Sein has overseen a number of dramatic changes including the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election to parliament of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who despite living under house arrest for years had refused to leave the country for fear she would not be allowed back.
Reported by RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.