A step closer for an ASEAN free of visas for its citizens: earlier this month, Myanmar and Singapore finally inked a MoU with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong agreeing to allow both Singaporean and Myanmar citizens to enjoy 30-day visa free entry into their respective country. The new regulation will take effect from December 1.
“Normally, ASEAN countries agree to a 14-day visa exemption, so 30 days is good for the relationship between the two countries and it could support the tourism industry and business as well,” said Daw Aye Aye Soe, deputy director general of the Department of Consular and Legal Affairs.
Among other topics between Aung San Suu Kyi and Lee Hsien Loong were further traffic rights to Singapore Airlines Group, tax agreements between both countries and the opening of a Myanmar-Singapore hospitality and vocational training school for Myanmar young students.
Myanmar has been implementing visa exemption agreements with fellow ASEAN members since 2009 when it signed an agreement with Laos, followed by similar MoUs with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines and Vietnam. With Thailand, a slightly restricted free visa system exists: Citizens of both Myanmar and Thailand are allowed visa-free visits to each other only if arriving by way of air into the country. The visa-free length of stay is limited to 14 days.
Still is missing a MoU agreement with Malaysia due to illegal immigration concerns from the government. Malaysia is the second largest host to Burmese migrants after Thailand, having received around 39,000 Burmese migrants in 2015, according to government statistics.
In 2015, Malaysia and Myanmar agreed in principle to waive the visa requirement for government officials and business travellers to ease travels for these groups between the two countries. Businessmen need however the endorsement of their respective chambers of commerce to benefit of the visa exemption.