Myanmar in a mood to ease travel

Immigration and Population Minister Khin Yi confirmed, Wednesday, Myanmar will continue to hold talks with four ASEAN countries  (Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore)  to waive visa requirements to boost two-way travel.

The minister told local media  that under the ASEAN common visa scheme, Myanmar nationals should soon be able to visit all the other nine countries, of ASEAN without requiring a visa.

He said the entire ASEAN bloc should be visa-free in terms of Myanmar by 2015.

“We are working with other ASEAN foreign ministers,” he said.

At present, Myanmar has reciprocal visa-free pacts with Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines and Vietnam. The bilateral agreements allow citizens  14-day visa-free stays. There is no provision for extending the visa’s length of stay or widening it to include business travel. It is also applicable only fo airline travel.

The ASEAN common visa would help develop two-way travel between the 10-member countries. Myanmar is the sole remaining member that has still to ratify visa-free stays for citizens of Brunei, Singapore Thailand and Malaysia.

Myanmar is hosting the ASEAN Tourism Forum, 22 to 29 January ,2015, at the close of the country’s year-long chairmanship of the 10-nation bloc. It hopes to have the visa-free stay subject up and running for all member countries before it vacates the chair. In late January it hands over  to the Philippines to chair the group for a year.

Myanmar  will also be the host to usher in the ASEAN Economic Community January 2015. AEC will mark a new free-trade era with easier travel facilitation viewed as an important component to make it a success.

Thailand and Myanmar were supposed to sign off on the agreement at last December’s SEA Games, held in the capital Nay Pyi Taw.

However,  former Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, cancelled her trip to the Games resulting in the postponement of the final round of talks and the signing ceremony. It is now up to the new Thai government, led by prime minister General Prayuth Chan-Orcha, to engage in talks to conclude visa-free travel rules with Myanmar.

To promote tourism, Myanmar introduced an e-visa scheme, 1 September. Only tourists flying to Yangon can apply for the e-visa. It costs USD50, takes a week to gain approval and can be paid for online using a visa card.

Source : TTR Weekly