With the military takeover, the political and economic crises both deteriorated steadily. As the economy worsens, an increasing number of people are leaving for other countries in search of jobs.
That’s why, following the military takeover, people are lining up at Myanmar’s passport office to acquire passports.
The Military Council has suspended issuing passports for more than two months, claiming a shortage of paper as the reason.
Notwithstanding the suspension of passport issuing, the Military Council continues to provide passports to MOU migrants/workers, and pilgrims to Buddha Gaya.
At the moment, the military council is giving PV type passports to those who wish to go on a pilgrimage to Buddha Gaya, according to Kyaw Aung (false name), a local passport dealer in Taunggyi.
“After customers contact our company, we will assist them in obtaining a passport only if we are confident that they will join the pilgrimage. Just copies of household registration and identity are required. If you plan to go for three days, you must spend 25 lakhs for the passport and round-trip transportation. A 15-day vacation costs 35 lakh kyats. The passport is valid for five years,” Kyaw Aung explained.
Kyaw Aung stressed that you must apply 21 days in advance for the passport PV to be processed. The procedure also required that the application be submitted to appropriate ministry offices, and only when they were authorized could the passport be issued in the office.
” The issuing of passports is exclusively available to those traveling to Buddha Gaya, not to those who apply separately or for other reasons. Individuals cannot cancel their Buddha Gaya trip after they have gotten their passport. After returning from the Buddha Gaya trip, one must get immigration exit and entry stamps. People can travel overseas next year with the same passport,” Kyaw Aung said.
The military council announced in February in its official mouthpiece, the Myawaddy newspaper, that the Buddha Gaya tour will be performed five times a week by two airplanes, each carrying more than 100 people.
Similarly, Ma Hsu Yadi, a 20-year-old who wishes to work overseas, stated, “Now that the passport office is closed, I must repay some of the money I borrowed. Some people have already paid brokers despite not having gotten their passports. The brokers are also unable to proceed with the process. As a result, everyone is in trouble”.
Ma Hsu Yadi has been applying for a PV type passport since December, but she has yet to acquire it.
“I went to apply for the passport myself, therefore I did not have to pay much money. It cost only 5,500,000 Kyats to be deposited into the bank. Those who apply through brokers have to pay from 300,000 to 500,000 kyats. Now that the office is closed, the money is left with the broker. Some of them were cheated out of money,” Ma Hsu Yadi stated.
Additionally, the Military Council is willing to provide passports to those going on a Buddha Gaya tour, and therefore exclusively to Buddhists.
“Only Buddhists were allowed to travel abroad; what about the rest of us, we’re like non-humans with no rights,” Zin Min (not his actual name), a 24-year-old Christian, expressed his discontent.
“It is not surprising that this practice is unfolding. They have mishandled everything from the beginning. It’s like going shopping in the old days. You want to buy soap, but you also need a thread and a needle (implying that even if people may not want to go on a pilgrimage, they must in order to obtain a passport).” According to Christian Zin Min.
The SAC regime, which staged a coup, is seeking to impose normality by disseminating and imposing pronouncements through its mouthpiece media, claiming that the country has enjoyed security, peace, and stability, as well as ethnic equality, cohesion, and religious non-discrimination.
Even so, the pilgrimage to Buddha Gaya program discriminates against non-Buddhists and fuels divisions and tensions among different religions and ethnicities.
“The military council is instigating ethnic and religious discord and tension, which has been the core cause of civil war from its inception.They are only pleased when they can separate people based on religion. The more they are able to create a split among the people, the better things will be favorable for them, “Zin Min added.
The military council has announced that passport issuance will resume on February 24.
Because the passport office has been closed for more than two months, reopening it may be more challenging for applicants than in the past, according to those in charge of the passport issuing process.
“The application process would be a bit challenging. Because it has been closed for about two months and many migrant workers would rush to get their passports done. Some people would need to renew their passports, while others would want to apply for new ones. This time all types of passports will be issued,” said the person in charge of the passport issuing process.
On August 18, 2022, the coup leader, Min Aung Hlaing, issued an order in Nay Pyi Taw to strengthen security because of the increasing number of young people departing overseas. Passport issuing has been halted after the direction of the Security, Peace and Law Enforcement Committee meeting No. 5/2022.
Due to the continuous departure of young people overseas, it was ordered to take strict measures regarding the departures in order to avoid a labor shortage in the country in the future.
The instability of the country’s politics, economics, and financial policies has had a significant impact on Burma’s economy.
As a result, the military council needed finances and a budget; hence, it allowed the pilgrimage program, and they are now planning to allow other types of passports to be granted as normal.
“To embark on a pilgrimage, I need a passport. The passport office also contributes to the military council. You can imagine how much money they would make if 100 people used their service. They (SAC or the offices under its supervision) desperately needed the fund and would go to any extent to acquire it. Because their income is suddenly threatened, they must reopen the passport office,” explained Sai Kyaw Moon.
“They have money and power, so they can do whatever they want. They’d do all of that bad stuff. Those of other religions, like as Christians, have money and desire passports, so they try to join the Buddha Gaya tour, but they are denied. As a way, it resembles discrimination,” he explained.
According to a VOA interview with a source who works on migrant issues, more than 40,000 Burmese migrants were arrested in 2022.
“If these things continue, the people will be forced to accept the way they (the SAC government) have been controlling them for the past 70 years. Things might become even worse,” Zinn Min made a comment.
The Military Council announced that the passport would be reissued, we could not trust it, the passport issuance office could be closed again,” said passport agents or dealers.
“They are crazy and unpredictable; but all determined by the SAC regime. Their policies are always changing. Although the office is open today, it may be closed the next day. Nothing is certain in Myanmar,” a young guy from Taunggyi protested.