Govt admits tighter restrictions on Harn Yawnghwe, denies blacklisting claim

By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER

NAY PYI TAW — State Counsellor’s office director U Zaw Htay said the government had not blacklisted Sai Harn Yawnghwe from travelling to Myanmar, after it emerged earlier this month the high-profile adviser to the peace process had a visa application denied by consular officials in Canada.

However, he admitted at a Wednesday press conference in the capital that the executive director of the Euro-Burma Office would be subject to more restrictive visa regulations during future visits.

“U Harn Yawnghwe can come and go from Myanmar anytime he wants,” Zaw Htay told reporters. “Although he will not be able to stay for long like others, he can stay with a social visa. This has been told to embassies and other respective offices.”

Social visas allow former citizens and their families single-entry, 28-day admission into Myanmar, with in-country extensions to a maximum of 70 days.

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Harn Yawnghwe’s long association with the government’s peace process began through his work with the Myanmar Peace Centre, established by the U Thein Sein administration to negotiate an end to decades of civil conflict, after the EBO was permitted to establish an office inside the country in 2011.

The son of Sao Shwe Thaik, Myanmar’s first independence president, Harn Yawnghwe spent decades providing support to ethnic armed groups and exiled democracy activists during the junta era.

He had been present in Nay Pyi Taw last month for the second round of the government’s 21st Century Panglong peace conference talks, but was told by the Myanmar embassy in Canada at the beginning of June that he was not eligible for a further visa application.

At least one other EBO staffer was also denied an entry visa this month, according to local media reports.

Zaw Htay said he would be subject to the more restrictive visa category as “the EBO was not continuing its work with the government anymore.”

Harn Yawnghwe could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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