Myanmar junta revokes passports held by some citizens who are Singapore PRs


Myanmar national May Kyaw found out that her passport was invalid when she was going to fly from Singapore to Thailand. - ST

SINGAPORE: May Kyaw was headed to Bangkok in August when she was stopped at Changi Airport.

“I was flying to Bangkok to meet a friend and when passing through immigration, the officer told me that my passport was invalid,” said the 50-year-old Myanmar national and Singapore permanent resident (PR).

“I renewed it in December 2022, so it was supposed to expire only five years later, in 2027.”

May, who has been living here since 2008 and runs a shop in Peninsula Plaza, is among at least three Singapore PRs from Myanmar who have had their passports invalidated by the junta, The Straits Times has learnt.

She believes she was targeted as she is a supporter of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

A general election in November 2020 saw NLD and its leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, returned to power, winning 86 per cent of seats in a landslide victory.

But in February 2021, the military declared a state of emergency, claiming that the results were fraudulent and launching a coup d’etat. Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders were detained.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman from Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) told ST on Nov 30 that the shadow government is aware that Myanmar embassies under the control of the military junta are targeting citizens living abroad for their political views.

He confirmed that the Myanmar Embassy in Singapore had nullified the passports of three Myanmar citizens living here, and added: “Their actions include denying passport extensions for certain Myanmar citizens living abroad or revoking and invalidating certain Myanmar citizens’ passports, without offering prior notifications or valid justifications.

“It is possible that numerous other citizens may have faced similar revocations by the embassy. Beyond Singapore, we have also received reports from Myanmar citizens in various countries regarding their passport issues.”

May said she knew of a Singapore PR who was flying back to the Republic from a work trip in Vietnam when he found out that his passport was invalid. He could not re-enter Singapore.

“This is not right for a government to bully their people. People are afraid and worried that the same thing might happen to them,” she said, adding that it is hard for her to accept that she cannot travel freely now.

“I am now hoping for the military to get out, so that I am able to travel and return home again.”

ST has contacted the Myanmar Embassy in Singapore for comment.

In response to ST queries, Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said in a joint statement: “For Singapore permanent residents and long-term pass holders who are already in Singapore, the invalidation of their travel document does not affect their continued residence or employment in Singapore.”

They can remain in Singapore as long as their ICA- or MOM-issued permit or pass remains valid, they added. Long-term pass holders include work pass holders.

Both government bodies said it is possible for foreigners to leave Singapore for another country without a valid passport.

The statement said: “In general, entry into and departure from Singapore requires a valid travel document. However, foreigners who wish to leave Singapore but do not have a valid travel document will be allowed to depart Singapore if the receiving country permits their entry.”

According to a 2021 ST report, the Myanmar community in Singapore is estimated to number at least 200,000, made up of students, healthcare workers and foreign domestic workers, as well as skilled professionals. A recent Radio Free Asia report put the estimate at 300,000.

David Bensadon, who runs We Are Caring maid agency, said his company has helped provide jobs to Myanmar nationals in Singapore, and was not aware of any reports of passport cancellations among his helpers.

He said: “If a helper’s passport expires or becomes invalid, it does not automatically cancel the work permit.

“At the moment, we will continue to provide jobs to Myanmar candidates. If a passport of one of our helpers is cancelled, we could visit the embassy together with her to seek clarifications.”

The NUG spokesman said the shadow government’s representatives in various countries are making efforts to gain international recognition to help tackle the challenges faced by Myanmar citizens.

He said: “Through our office and representative offices in various countries, we are sending appeal letters to the host governments to view and handle the passport issues of Myanmar citizens from a humanitarian standpoint.

“We urge those governments to consider taking measures such as the issuance of special visas for Myanmar citizens and providing them with temporary stay until the country’s powers are returned to the people of Myanmar.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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