Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Restriction brings down issuance of online arrival visas

by Maung Maung Naing

Mizzima - The Burmese military regime is allowing application for online arrival visas to attract more foreign tourists to the country but due to the restrictions of this system, only about 25 per cent of the total applicants were granted the visa during the past eight months, according to sources.

Diamond Place Travel and Tour Co. Ltd. is operating the issuance of the online arrival visa business. But given the restrictions imposed by the Burmese junta, only a few online visas could actually be granted during the eight-month trial period, company and Foreign Ministry sources said.

“We have been implementing this programme over the last two years. It took a lot of time for negotiations on credit card payment. The trial period has completed eight months now. About 1,500 travellers have come to Burma with this online visa so far. Due to the various restrictions imposed by the government, only about one fourth of the total applicants were granted this visa,” an official from the company told Mizzima.

“In fact, we are issuing the arrival visa to only those who have been to Burma before and were not blacklisted by the concerned departments. We are issuing this visa to group tours from Asian countries. There are hardly other online visas granted to any other applicants,” a staff from the Foreign Ministry said.

Brig. Gen. Aye Myint Kyu, Deputy Minister of Hotel and Tourism Ministry, said at the annual general meeting of Burma Tour Operators Association held on June 13 that they would grant online arrival visa at the earliest date if the required supporting documents are in order and complete. But the fact remains that the Foreign Ministry issued these visas only after going thorough verifications and various restrictions, he said.

“Though we are issuing arrival visas but we dare issue such visas only to group tours. For instance, we cannot issue it to the applicants coming from some countries where suicide bombings take place almost every day. We did not issue visa to those when there were discrepancies in particulars mentioned in the visa applications and particulars produced on arrival,” Brig. Gen. Aye Myint Kyu said while explaining how tour operations had slowed down due to the strict visa regulations of Burma.

“We didn’t issue it to some applicants when we found them coming with hair dyed with red colour on arrival but black hair was mentioned in their visa application. We should relax our visa regulation in such a situation. Then our tour industry will improve,” he pointed out.

The online visa applicants must apply at and websites.

The applicants must apply three days before their arrival date and those applicants whose applications are rejected will be informed within 24 hours.

After the 2007 September saffron revolution, the number of tourists coming to Burma has plummeted and the situation was worsened because of the global economic slowdown. For the promotion of tourism industry in Burma, the government introduced this new online arrival visa system, an official of Burma Tour and Travel Association said.

Tourists coming to Burma, who have already got the online visa need to inform their tour plan to the Myanmar Tourism Department at Bo Sunpet Street and get their approval before starting their journey.

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