Harn Yawnghwe, a son of Burma’s first president Sao Shwe Thaike, has been blacklisted by the National League for Democracy (NLD) government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Unable to extent his visa, on June 9 he was forced to leave the country.
“Over the past few years, it was never difficult for him [Harn Yawnghwe] to get a one-year visa. He would be issued one within a week. He has been applying [for a visa] since April but still didn’t get it,” said Khuensai Jaiyen, the managing director of Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogue (PI). “When he contacted the Burmese embassy in Canada, they said they didn’t know anything about it.”
Khuensai added: “Any visa ban is ordered by the Burmese Ministry for Foreign Affairs.”
There is a rumor that the reason Harn Yawnghwe was blacklisted is because he has been increasingly seen as an influential person in the ethnic political arena. He is often accused by critics of masterminding the peace process single-handedly. Harn Yawnghwe and his Euro Burma Office (EBO) organization has been one of the main funders of civil society groups and ethnic armed organizations involved in Burma’s peace process.
The EBO was established in 1997 with an agenda to promote democracy and human rights. It was allowed to set up a branch office in Burma a few weeks after Harn Yawnghwe met Naypyidaw’s chief negotiator Aung Min in Bangkok in September 2011.
Khuensai Jaiyen said that Harn Yawnghwe has been a key player in Burma’s peace process dating back to President Thein Sein’s initiative in 2011, frequently helping to facilitate talks between the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups.
“In my opinion, this marks a failure for the State Counselor’s peace process,” said Khuensai Jaiyen. “If he is not allowed to enter the country, the peace process that the State Counselor is leading will face problems. They should not ban him on the basis of these suspicions. They should have talked with him face to face.”
Apart from Harn Yawnghwe, two other staff from EBO are also on the blacklist.
Currently, EBO is helping to support the eight nationwide ceasefire agreement signatory groups to set up liaison offices inside the country.
Han Yawnghwe is the youngest son of Sao Shwe Thaike, the prince of Yawnghwe who was the first president of Burma from 1948-52. One of his brothers was shot dead when Gen. Ne Win staged a coup d’état in 1962. He and his mother, Sao Nang Hearn Kham, the founder of the Shan State Army, immediately fled the country. He was allowed to return to Burma in 2011 during the early days of the military-backed Thein Sein government.