Recently I started looking at the easiest way to obtain a visa for Burma (Myanmar) and came upon a blog called The Mad Traveler on line. I just have to share one paragraph from his article about the visa process at the embassy in Bangkok. "For a tourist visa you have to include a short work history. What were your last two jobs, beginning and end dates, work phone number, job title. It’s important not to include the obvious red flags: journalist, photographer, human rights activist, rabble rouser, terrorist, missionary".
It appears to me the United States and the European Union told Burma that freedom of press and freedom of expression would be a prerequisite to opening up trade and aid to Burma. The government of Myanmar responded quickly that freedom of expression is the new reality in that country. Many people missed, or chose to miss the wink.
One of the newsletters to which I subscribe is Burma Partnership. This morning I received a brief article that, at least for me, tells a awful lot about the state of freedom of expression and freedom of press in Burma. I'll copy it here.
"20 June 2013
Statement by Three Human Rights DefendersBy Moe Thway, Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin
We would like to explain what is happening to us, Moe Thway (Generation Wave), Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin (Yangon People Service Network), in these days.
On 13 June 2013, Monywa court issued warrants to arrest the three of us under section 505(b) of the Penal Code. Lieutenant Khin Zaw Latt from Monywa Police Station 1 said he requested Monywa court to charge us with section 505(b) because of our comments about the Letpadaung copper mine case.
On 25 April 2013, there was some violence between local police and villagers in the Letpadaung copper mine project area when villagers tried to plough their fields, which are in an area that they were prohibited to enter under section 144 of the Penal Code. Local police arrested an activist and two villagers and also issued a warrant for 8 other activists and villagers. As the consequences of that case, villagers were afraid of police raids on their villages and the possibility of more violence.
Because of that situation, we were worried that there would be more conflicts between local authorities and people. So we four activists, Aung Thu (88 Generation), Moe Thway (Generation Wave), Wai Lu and Wai Hmuu Thwin (Yangon People Service Network), went to Monywa and Letpadaung villages on 8 May 2013 to try to calm down the tensions in that area. We informed to the local police, administration and also government, that we were coming to find a compromise and peaceful way to resolve the problems.
During that trip, we met and consulted with people from several villages surrounding the Letpadaung project and brought their requests to local authorities. We sent the information we got from local people to the Prime Minister of Sagaing Region, U Tha Aye, and also to the chairman of Letpadaung mining project implementation committee, U Hla Tun, and two ministers of the President Office, U Aung Min and U Ohn Myint. We requested to meet Sagaing Region government, but we didn’t get the chance to meet the Prime Minister of Sagaing Region although we waited for 5 days from 8 to 12 May 2013. One of us, Wai Lu had a chance to meet U Aung Min, Minister of the President Office, to report about the situation in Yangon on 12 May 2013.
While we were in Monywa, we were asked for an interview by some local reporters. We had an interview with them at a tea shop named Pin Lone. Some police from the Special Branch were nearby and closely watched our interview. One reporter shot a video recording while we were answering questions. We spoke out our opinions of local police using section 144 of the Penal Code to keep villagers from entering their fields and prohibited areas near the mining project.
Unfortunately, Sagaing Region police force felt that our comments and opinions in the interview damaged the police and the government’s credibility. So they proposed the court to arrest us and charge us under section 505(b) of the Penal Code, which carries a possible sentence of 2 years imprisonment.
We are being charged for giving an interview to media and expressing our opinions about police actions in a civil rights movement case. The government is telling the world that there is freedom of expression and is getting so much appreciation. But this warrant is an attack on our right to freedom of expression and is destroying Myanmar’s democratic transition.
We call on the government, the police and all authorities to ensure freedom of expression for all people of Myanmar as an important step on our path towards democracy."