Friday, August 22, 2008

Burmese patriots in Singapore to hold press conference today; Press release asks for explanation from Singapore authorities

Here's a press release which was emailed to me. Its got to do with Burmese activists facing visa problems in Singapore,

Burmese Citizens Denied Renewal of Visas in Singapore
Groundless non-renewal of key immigration and work documents of Burmese Patriots by Singapore immigration and manpower authorities


Since the Saffron Revolution of September 2007, the Burmese anti-junta movement has gained remarkable momentum in Singapore, fuelled by the increasing frustration and discontent of the Burmese people in Singapore at the outrageous atrocities committed by the Burmese military junta.

Burmese patriots in Singapore work as one united group to raise awareness about human rights violations by the Burmese junta, advocate for free and democratic Burma, and stand in solidarity with the freedom and democracy movements inside Burma as well as around the world.

Some of the notable milestones are the peaceful protest along Orchard Road on 20th November 2007 during ASEAN Summit and the "Vote NO" Campaign for the sham referendum on the military-drafted, new constitution for Burma during late April and early May 2008. These activities were not only effective in raising awareness about the injustice committed by the Burmese Junta and the true desires of the Burmese people but also lawful in Singapore. (Jacob: I've posted the videos of these events below.)

The political objectives of the Burmese activists have always been to advocate political change in Burma and their guiding principle is to use peaceful as well as lawful means in Singapore while expressing themselves. Indeed, none of the anti-junta political activities of the Burmese activists has ever been declared unlawful or in conflict with the local sensitivities by the Singapore government. Apart from receiving a police warning for their participation in the Orchard Road anti-junta protest, the Burmese activists have never been charged for any unlawful act while pursuing their political objectives.

Non-renewal of key immigration documents

Since July 2008, many Burmese patriots in Singapore have been denied renewal and extensions of their visas or permits by Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoint Authorities and the Ministry of Manpower for no reason or explanation. In a span of just over two weeks, 6 Burmese patriots have been affected, and 3 of them have been forced to leave Singapore to date.

There is no evidence that the 6 affected Burmese patriots have ever committed a crime against the law in Singapore. No reason or explanation has been given by the Singapore Immigration and Checkpoint Authorities for rejecting the renewal and extension of the visas and permits of these Burmese patriots. In the eyes of the Burmese patriots affected, the rejections appear arbitrary and without rationale.

Statement of intent

We, Burmese patriots, are releasing this press statement to publicly inquire:

- The underlying reasons for the apparently arbitrary rejections by Singapore authorities

- Whether the Burmese activists have been rejected for their peaceful political activism

- Why the Singapore government unfairly ill-treated the Burmese activists despite its declarations of support for peaceful political change in Burma

Photo & Interview Opportunities

Your reporter and cameraman are invited to cover the press conference, which is open to full media coverage.

The details are as follows:

Date : 22 August 2008 (Friday)

Time : 3.00pm to 5.00pm

Venue : Lilac Room, Level 5, Peninsula Excelsior Hotel

The press conference's panel includes:

Myo Myint Maung

· A 3rd year Business student from SMU and representing 3 Burmese patriots who have since left Singapore.

Ngwe Zin Soe (Detailed profile appended below)


The following is the profiles of the 4 out of 6 affected activists and the details of their cases.

Ngwe Zin Soe

NRIC number : S7780862J (Permanent Resident)

Occupation : Assistant Engineer

Type of visa/permit : PR Re-entry Permit

Related agency : ICA

Since her graduation from Temasek Polytechnic in 2003, Ngwe Zin Soe has been working in an Engineering company with a Permanent Resident (PR) status in Singapore. Considering her PR Re-entry Permit would expire on 11th September 2007, she went to ICA on 21st July 2008 to apply for its extension as Re-entry Permit can be extended within 6 months prior to the expiry date. At ICA, Ngwe Zin Soe was told that her permit could not be extended immediately and she would be contacted at a later time. It is an unusual delay because PR Re-entry Permit extension can be processed usually within 30 minutes. However, no reason was given for this. To date, she has yet been contacted by ICA in regard to her application.

According to ICA, "a Singapore Permanent Resident (SPR) who wishes to leave Singapore must obtain a Re-Entry Permit (REP) to enable him/her to return to Singapore as a SPR. A SPR who remains outside Singapore without a valid REP will lose his/her SPR status."

Maung Soe Thiha

Fin number : G3501046M

Occupation : Student (recently graduated from NUS in 2008)

Type of visas/permit : Social Visit Pass & Employment Pass

Related agency : ICA & MOM

Since the expiry of his Student Pass on 17th May 2008, 8 days after the completion of his studies at NUS, Maung Soe Thiha was living on a Social Visit Pass to look for a job. According to a bond between him and MOE, he has to work in Singapore-registered companies for 3 years upon graduation in return for his receipt of MOE Tuition Grant.

About two weeks after his receiving a degree scroll at NUS Commencement, his application for long-term Social Visit Pass was rejected by Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) through a letter dated 24th July 2008, which his sponsor received on 26th July 2008. On both 28th July 2008 (Monday) and 29th July 2008 (Tuesday), he approached ICA officers to ask for the reason of the rejection as he had valid reasons to remain in Singapore – to seek employment in order to serve his bond. No reason was given.

In the morning of 30th July 2008, the day when his Social Visit Pass expired, the flight to Cambodia he intended to take was missed by him because of the delay caused by an unreasonably long checking of his passport by an immigration officer at the airport. He was later told that his passport was alright, but no reason was given by the officer for checking it so long. Eventually, he was given a Special Pass for one-day stay in Singapore with the requirement that he leaves Singapore from Changi Airport.

In that time of dismay, he got a job as a project engineer at Hai Yong Engineering in the afternoon of 30th July 2008. An application for Employment Pass was done for him through EP Online System around 1:30 pm on 30th July 2008. With his employment letter, Maung Soe Thiha then went to ICA to appeal for the extension of his Social Visit Pass until the outcome of his EP application would become available. That appeal was outright rejected by ICA; however, again, no reason was given.

Maung Soe Thiha left for Cambodia on 31st Jul 2008 and his application for Employment Pass is still pending after nearly three weeks so far.

Myo Tun

FIN number : G7011467X

Occupation : Construction worker

Type of visa/permit : Work Permit

Related agency : MOM

On 30th Jul 2008, the extension of Myo Tun's Work Permit Pass, which expired on 1st August 2008, was rejected. As per normal, Work Permit extensions are applied in batches by his company. Out of 5 or 6 applicants in his batch, Myo Tun was the only one left out by MOM for rejection without any apparent reason.

Myo Tun left Singapore on 2nd August 2008 and is currently staying in Thailand.

Hlaing Moe

FIN number : F8383118U

Occupation : Technical Supervisor

Type of visa/permit : S Pass & Social Visit Pass

Related agency : MOM & ICA

Hlaing Moe had been working as a Technical Supervisor in Sankyu (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., since 17th July 2006 on S Pass when his application for the renewal of his S Pass was rejected on 17th July 2008 according to the letter from MOM. There was no reason given for the rejection and his company was still willing to employ him further. On 21st July 2008, he submitted an appeal letter to MOM for reconsideration, but it was again rejected on 25th July 2008 without any reason given.

After the cancellation of his S Pass, he received a Social Visit Pass to stay in Singapore until 5th August 2008. He is studying part-time for Diploma in Technology (Mechanical) at Ngee Ann Polytechnic and in his 5th semester there so far. Since he had then upcoming exams during 14th August 2008 to 24th August 2008, he appealed to ICA on 29th July 2008 to extend his Social Visit Pass until he would have finished sitting the exams. Despite his valid reasons for staying in Singapore, the appeal was outright rejected for no given reason.

Hlaing Moe left Singapore on 5th August 2008 and is currently staying in Malaysia. During his stay in Malaysia, he applied for Singapore visa in order to sit the exams that have started since 14th August 2008. It was finally approved on 20th of August 2008 in the eveing, just two days before this press conference, but it was too late for him.

Aug 23 update:

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