Muslim travel restrictions endure in Kayin State, despite chief minister’s disavowal

Kayin State Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint (center) at a bridge opening ceremony. Photo: MOI
Kayin State Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint (center) at a bridge opening ceremony. Photo: MOI

The chief minister of Kayin State has said she will reverse a recent order from her government that requires Muslim citizens to report their travel plans to local administrative offices. She said the order was issued without her knowledge and that she would take action against those responsible for it.

However, as of this week, the restriction remains in place.

The order requires Muslims to get recommendation letters from the official Islamic organization in Kayin State, from their ward administrative office, from their township’s migration office, and from police before they can travel legally.

It came into effect on September 18, when Kayin State government deputy director Myo Chit sent the order to local administrators and claimed it was on behalf of Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint. However, the chief minister said the release of the order was an administrative error.

“This letter happened because of an error in the administrative department,” she told The Myanmar Times on Wednesday. “I didn’t release that kind of statement that all Muslims have to report their travel plans, even when they have official identity cards. I’ll take action on it.”

When Myo Chit issued the order, he justified it, saying: “It is for their own protection and not religious discrimination. Normally, everyone needs to take any identity card or other personal document when they travel. This part of a security measures to avoid unnecessary conflicts that may arise, similar to Rakhine State.”

Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, however, said this constitutes a violation of the freedoms of Muslim citizens and would no longer be enforced.

Nonetheless, Muslims in Kayin State say the restrictions have not yet been removed. Haji U Na Ju, the chairman of the Kayin State branch of the Islamic Religious Affairs Council Myanmar said: “The [announcement] of the chief minister has had no effect, as all Muslims still need to report like before.”

U Maung Htwe, the information officer for a local interfaith group, said: “The administrative office didn’t tell us that there is no need to report, so we still have to get the permissions letters.”

U Saw Tin Win, a Lower House MP from Kayin State, said the chief minister’s statements have not been clear on whether Muslims still need to report their travel plans.

“They need to announce again clearly,” he said.

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