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NLD intervenes for blacklisted former activist

Maung Maung Wan speaks to DVB reporters at Rangoon International Airport on 2 August 2016. (Photo: DVB)

A former student activist who was barred from entering Burma earlier this week has been given a green light to return to the country after senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government intervened on his behalf.

Maung Maun Wan, a US citizen and ’88 Generation activist, was turned away by immigration officials at Rangoon International Airport on Tuesday, despite having a business visa issued in the United States.

The former political prisoner, who was sentenced in 1996 to three years in prison for possession of videotapes of foreign television programmes about Burma, returned to New York after being denied entry because his name was on a blacklist.

He is expected to return to Burma in time to attend events next Monday commemorating the 8 August 1988 uprising against military rule.

Officials said that Maung Maung Wan had been blacklisted because he had overstayed his visa during a previous visit in 2014, during which he said he had been involved in the creation of a local school.

Speaking to DVB at the airport on Tuesday, he said he couldn’t understand why he had been denied entry.

“I just want to say, we are not the kind of people that are here to disrupt the country. I just want to assist the country with my skills and energy — they have no need to worry,” he said.

The incident appears to have prodded the NLD government to follow through on a promise it made in June to remove names from a no-entry list targeting both Burmese and foreign nationals.

At a press conference in Naypyidaw on Wednesday, Minster for Labour, Immigration and Population Thein Swe announced that 619 individuals — 248 Burmese nationals and 371 foreigners — who had been blacklisted for political reasons would no longer be refused entry.

Concerning Maung Maung Wan’s case, the minister said that officials were “just doing their job” when they prevented him from entering the country.

“But then an official requested that we double check and that is when we discovered he was due to be removed from the list anyway,” he said.