Friday, 8 August 2008

Myanmar activists face visa problems in S'pore

SINGAPORE (ST)- AT least three Myanmar activists were forced to leave Singapore after authorities decided not to renew their visas in an apparent attempt to stop the group's pro-democracy work, another Myanmar activist said.

Mr Myo Myint Maung, a spokesman for the group, told Reuters on Friday that six Myanmar nationals are having trouble with their visas and three, including a student, were forced to leave Singapore recently after their various visas were not renewed.

The remaining three are Singapore permanent residents, which means they can stay in the city-state if they choose to.

But they will not be allowed to re-enter Singapore should they leave as their re-entry permits have not been extended.

All six were involved in an illegal protest last year against Myanmar's ruling military junta. Though not charged, they were let off with a warning. Protests are rare in Singapore and gatherings of four or more people require police permission.

Myo said the treatment of the activists was not justified.

'We are very puzzled. I cannot think of any reasonable explanation for their decision not to renew it,' he said.

Singapore's home ministry said in a statement that the right of a foreigner to work and stay in Singapore 'is not a matter of entitlement by political demand'.

'Foreigners who work or live here are expected to at least respect the law and local sensitivities in Singapore,' said a spokesman from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

According to the Singapore immigration website, the process to renew a re-entry permit into Singapore for a permanent resident only takes 30 minutes. (JEG's: they wait up to 6months and many times they cannot travel)

'It is usually a one-day process, but it has been pending for more than a month for some,' Mr Myo said.

Singapore is home to around 100,000 Myanmar nationals, the Straits Times newspaper reported earlier this year. -- REUTERS

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