Burma reveals names of people removed from blacklist

File photo: Burmese President Thein Sein
Image caption President Thein Sein's government has implemented a series of reforms

Burma's authorities have named 2,000 or so people being taken off a blacklist the former military government compiled to manage perceived security threats.

They include foreign officials, aid workers and journalists.

On the list were former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, late Philippine President Corazon Aquino, as well as some BBC journalists.

The move is the latest in a series of reformist steps by the military-backed government.

On Tuesday, Burma announced the removal of 2,082 names from its blacklist, which bars people deemed a threat to national security from entering or leaving the country.

The decision by the military-backed, civilian-led government reduces the list by about a third.

The blacklist may not have been quite as effective as intended - many of the spellings on the list are erratic, with some names appearing more than once in different guises, correspondents say.

Mrs Aquino's name for example seems to be listed several times, including as "Madame Corazon C.A guino". British historian Timothy Garton Ash appears as "Gartonash, Timothy John".

The late US singer, activist and politician Sonny Bono was also listed. So were the two sons of the opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as her former physician.

Also now permitted to return is the Vietnam war veteran, John Yettaw, who swam across the lake to her house in 2009 - an act that led to the extension of her house arrest.

There are also retired Western diplomats, who were seen as too hostile when based in the country, human rights officials and a long list of foreign journalists who were not welcome to revisit the country after sending reports that offended the generals who ruled Burma for almost 50 years.

BBC journalists removed from the list include TV correspondent Sue Lloyd-Roberts and Africa correspondent Andrew Harding, who was previously based in Asia.

Restrictions test

There was no mention of some 4,000 people whose names are thought to remain on the blacklist, and they are not being told who they are or why they are banned.

On Tuesday, state media said the removal of names from the list gave a green light to Burmese citizens abroad to return home.

During nearly five decades of military rule, thousands of people - foreigners and Burmese - were blacklisted by the authorities.

They are thought to include government critics, foreign journalists and public sector workers who went abroad during military rule.

Some were expelled; others living overseas, especially political activists, assumed they could not return, or that they would be arrested if they did.

Since the new government's reforms, some Burmese living overseas have tested the restrictions and been allowed to return.

Observers say a measure of the extent of the reforms will be whether prominent exiled activists are allowed back into the country.

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