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Visas on Myanmar agenda

9 Myanmar
A Buddhist monk walks on the grounds of Myanmar’s iconic Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon in March. Reuters

In a move to facilitate a more unencumbered travel experience in the region, Cambodia, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines plan to develop a mutually beneficial system that would allow tourists to enter the four countries with one single visa.

Collaborating with relevant government agencies and stakeholders, the countries have signed the “Statement of Intent on SMART Visa” yesterday at the World Economic Forum on East Asia taking place in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw through Friday.

The single smart visa could be one of many new projects and plans to emerge out of the forum, which is buzzing with optimism as the country emerges out of decades of military rule.

According to India Blooms News Service, the statement of intent is part of a joint effort to improve growth and “social integration” in the national and regional tourism sectors.

“Considering that tourism is a priority sector under the ASEAN Economic Community and that it constitutes a significant contribution to the integration of ASEAN countries, it is important to be ‘smart’ about visa facilitation for travel,” Mari Elka Pangestu, Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy of Indonesia, said yesterday at conference.

 U Htay Aung, Union Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar, said “by signing this letter of intent, ministers and tourism authorities agree to work hand-in-hand for the implementation of this system, whose objective will be that of eliminating those barriers to the movement of tourists which are currently creating disincentives to travel.”

“Such objectives will be achieved in close coordination with the governmental entities in each of their respective countries,” he added.

A private sector representative said the initiative is one step forward towards the realisation of the long-promised ASEAN’s single visa scheme.

Ang Kim Eang, chairman of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said it was a good idea for the four countries to promote tourism as well as to help increase investment flows among them.

“This [smart visa] will help to eliminate barriers and facilitate tourists to visit the four countries, [similar to what] we did already with Thailand. It is another attraction for us to get more tourists even if they didn’t plan to visit us [initially] but when they apply for a visa to Indonesia or the Philippines, they will see that they can visit us [as well] – this is another promotion,” he said.

“If we implement [this] successfully, it will be a great benefit to attract tourists and investment.”

ASEAN tourism ministers have agreed to collaborate on working towards the ASEAN common visa initiative as agreed on by the region’s leaders at the ASEAN Summit in Jakarta in November 2011.

Cambodia and Thailand implemented a single visa scheme early January this year, and Laos is considering  the same deal with Cambodia.



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