Thursday, September 9, 2010

Burmese Immigration Charges Fees for IDs Before Election

By Takaloo
Sittwe: Burmese immigration officials have been taking large fees from residents in suburban villages outside the capital Sittwe in western Burma's Arakan State to issue National ID cards that are required to vote in the upcoming election, said one villager.

"The officials are charging a fee that ranges from 3,000 to 10,000 kyat for a card for our villagers even though they have charged residents in urban wards just 1,500 or 2,000 kyat. Most of our villagers here are very poor and can not afford to pay such a fee," the source said.

The daily income for most villagers averages less than 3,000 kyat, approximately equivalent to 3 US dollars, as most are day laborers and farmers.

"We now have great difficulty as the officials have forced us with an order that everyone who is 18 and above by October 2010, and does not yet have an ID card must get a card in order to cast their votes in the election that will be held by the state, and anyone who comes to apply for a card after the election will be rejected," the villager added.

The source said that officials have been issuing ID cards to villagers from five blocks of Mingan, Kandawgree, and Kandawchay Villages in suburban Sittwe since 1 September, and opened a temporary office in Mingan Block 2 to do so.

Applicants for an ID must submit two passport size photos, a photocopy of their family card or photocopies of their parents' ID cards, approval of the VPDC office, and approval from their school if they are still a student. Applicants must also appear in person at the office to have their fingerprints taken. Once all necessary documents can be submitted and fingerprints taken, the applicant must pay a fee of 3,000 kyat. If someone can not appear in person or submit all the necessary documents, they will be charged a fee up to 10,000 kyat by officials.

"As the card is very important for local travelers here in Burma and the authorities are forcing villagers to get the IDs before the election or be denied one later, most have had to pay enormous fees to get their ID cards," he added.

According to local sources, the Burmese military regime's immigration department has been carrying out a census of individuals and updating household and family lists, has been setting up billboards at villages with the village name, population, number of households, and has been issuing National ID cards to people across Arakan State to ensure detailed lists of voters in the election that is scheduled for 7 November.

Local residents reported to Narinjara that immigration officials have also forced parents to get National ID cards for their children as young as ten years old for a fee of 3,000 kyat when they began issuing cards to the non-Muslim ethnic people living in the border townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw in Arakan State.


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