YANGON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Aung San Suu Kyi’s sons and two dead U.S. congressmen were among 2,082 names removed on Thursday from a Myanmar government blacklist that gives an insight into the paranoia of its former military junta.
Late Philippine President Corazon Aquino, U.S. singer-turned-politician Sonny Bono and Kim and Alexander Aris, the sons of Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, were some of the prominent names taken off a list stacked with journalists, academics, human rights campaigners and exiled Burmese activists.
Its publication on the website of the Office of the President (www.president-office.gov.mm/) is the latest sign of surprise openness by a quasi-civilian government that has legalized protests, abolished media censorship, freed hundreds of political prisoners and embarked on economic reforms since coming to power in the former Burma in March 2011.
No reasons were given for why they had been blacklisted, but many were critics of the reclusive and thin-skinned generals who ruled Myanmar with an iron fist for 49 years and persecuted politicians, reporters and dissidents.
The list included plenty of discrepancies, including individuals mentioned several times under different name spellings. British historian Timothy Garton Ash appears as “Gartonash, Timothy John”, while some unknown individuals had only one name, like “Mr. Nick”, “Li Li” and “Mohammed”.
The announcement said exiled Burmese removed from the blacklist of 6,165 companies, organizations and individuals would be allowed to return. It did not say which remained.
Others removed include retired diplomats once based in Myanmar, the director of Human Rights Watch Brad Adams, late U.S. congressman Tom Lantos, Suu Kyi’s former physician Khin Saw Win and Yuenyong Opaku, the lead singer of popular Thai rock band, Ad Carabao.
One notable name is John Yettaw, a Vietnam War veteran jailed in 2009 after swimming across Yangon’s Inya Lake in home-made fins to warn Suu Kyi of an assassination plot, resulting in the extension of her house arrest.
Among journalists taken off were British author and documentary maker John Pilger, CNN’s Dan Rivers, the BBC’s Sue Lloyd-Roberts and Reuters photographer Adrees Latif, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo of a Japanese photographer shot dead in Yangon during a crackdown on 2007 pro-democracy protests.
Authors were also mentioned, like Bertil Lintner, whose books on Myanmar include “Outrage: Burma’s Struggle for Democracy”, which detailed the military’s savage crackdown on the 1988 protests that first brought Suu Kyi to prominence.
“I feel good, of course, to be able to visit the country I have written about for so many years,” said Lintner.
Reporting by Thu Rein Hlaing in Yangon and Andrew R.C. Marshall in Bangkok; Editing by Martin Petty and Ron Popeski