RANGOON— Burma’s Ministry of Immigration and Population has blacklisted a former activist leader as well as the chief of a popular Burmese-language weekly journal, informing airlines not to allow either man into the country under any circumstance.
Moe Thee Zun, a former leader of the 88 Generation Students Group, and Moe Hein (aka Washington Roosevelt), chief executive of The Sun Rays journal, have been blocked from returning to Burma, according to Maung Maung Than, director-general of the Department of Immigration and National Registration.
Both men are based in the United States and hold American citizenship, but were trying to move back to Burma under President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government. Moe Hein’s wife and son, also American citizens, have been blacklisted as well.
Airlines were informed on June 4 not to allow the four blacklisted people back into the country. The orders came from a government ministry department, said Maung Maung Than, who declined to specify the department.
“We informed airlines not to allow them to fly here. If they come, we will deport them—it will just be a waste of time and money,” the director-general said.
“I don’t know why they are not allowed to come back here,” he added.
Moe Thee Zun was a prominent student activist during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, after which he fled to Thailand and the United States. He returned to his homeland in 2012 with plans to stay permanently, but eight months later he was told he would need to leave again to renew his visa.
One official with the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), Hla Maung Shwe, reportedly encouraged him not to return. “He said activities to amend the Constitution were increasing, and that the peace process was running into problems, so he thought my staying here might be harmful for those things,” the activist told The Irrawaddy.
He applied for another visa in Bangkok, with a sponsorship letter from his mother, but the embassy told him he would need to try again in Washington. His application was also rejected by the embassy in the United States.
Moe Hein founded The Sun Rays when his previous journal, Sunlight, stopped publishing after its offices were allegedly raided last year by a group backed by the grandson of Burma’s former dictator Snr-Gen Than Shwe and the son of Commerce Minister Win Myint.
The Sun Rays ran into trouble soon afterward with the Ministry of Information, which accused it of publishing “unethical” writing and “hate speech.” The journal published scathing stories attacking members of the former military regime and so-called “crony” businessmen that benefitted from links with the junta. In November, the powerful Burmese tycoon Tay Za said he would sue after it ran a front-page story with his photo under the headline, “Cronies should jump into the Andaman Sea.”
The chief executive was planning to move back to Burma with his family, after being based in the United States.
“Moe Hein’s little son is only five years old now, and he is also the blacklist. It shouldn’t be—he was about to start school in Burma. U Khin Yi [the immigration minister] is responsible,” said Moe Thee Zun.
Myanmar Airways International, the country’s international flag carrier, confirmed that it had received instructions not to allow the four Burmese to enter the country. “We have already passed along the announcement to our stations in Bangkok and others,” said airline spokesman Aye Mra Tha.