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Burma (Myanmar) 2017 Crime & Safety Report

East Asia & Pacific > Burma; East Asia & Pacific > Burma > Rangoon


Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Rangoon does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or establishment and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed RANGOON as being a low-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government officials.

Please review OSAC’s Burma (Myanmar)-specific webpage proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Burma represents an unprecedented opportunity for U.S. private-sector organizations seeking to enter an emerging, potentially lucrative market that had been almost entirely off-limits for decades. According to the International Monetary Fund, multilateral development banks, and other private-sector research reports, Burma has the potential to become the next economic frontier in Asia if it can take advantage of its abundant natural resources, young labor force, and geopolitical proximity to some of the most dynamic economies in the world. The long-term stability and viability of foreign investment, however, hinges on reform efforts, national reconciliation, and an end to decades of civil conflict.

Crime Threats

Although the police do not issue crime/arrest statistics, endemic poverty, skyrocketing living costs, stagnant salaries, an increasing expatriate presence, and a rapidly expanding tourism sector have led to a perceived increase in crime. In Rangoon, Burmese nationals experience nighttime robberies, petty street crime, home invasions, and homicides.

The most common crimes reported by diplomats and other expatriates are non-violent crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, theft of unattended possessions in public places/hotel rooms, bag snatching, gem/confidence scams).

At night, it is recommended that visitors explore city sights in groups or with a partner. Maintain control of your personal items when in public areas and move away from anyone who you believe is acting suspiciously. Thieves often attempt to distract a victim by asking questions, begging for money, bumping/jostling, or selling items. Walk with a purpose; do not give the impression of being lost or wandering.

Incidents of financial fraud and identity theft are increasing. Burma is a cash-only society. This is changing, as commercial hotel and restaurant outlets catering to tourists are beginning to accept credit cards.

Travelers are discouraged from responding to any unsolicited opportunities to make money, including business opportunities that seem too good to be true. Beware of merchants offering to sell gems, gold, semi-precious stones. This could result in substantial loss of money and/or a violation of local laws. Do not purchase gems or minerals from an unlicensed source.

Violent crime and the use of weapons in the commission of crime are not common.

·         In 2016, a U.S. government contractor was assaulted and robbed on his way home after work.

·         In 2015, U.S. Embassy personnel reported one attempted residential burglary.

Many crimes reported to the RSO are unverifiable due to third-party sources that are difficult to corroborate. In the event of an armed confrontation, immediately hand over the desired property to avoid escalation/injury.

Individuals residing in Burma should supervise all workers in their residence. Doors/windows of residences and hotel rooms should remain secured. Excessive currency or valuable items should not be stored at one’s home or residence, as they may attract the attention of criminals.

Other Areas of Concern

U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside of Rangoon after dark.

Internal ethnic conflicts, communal violence, and religious tensions make certain areas outside of Rangoon off-limits. The continued use of landmines by Burma’s military and ethnic armed groups in the north, northeast, and southeast has led to an increase in landmine incidents in 2016. Permission to visit must be obtained from the government prior to travel to sensitive zones.

Foreigners travelling overland outside of Rangoon or other major cities or tourist destinations may experience problems without a Burmese interpreter to facilitate interaction with non-English speakers.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

 

Although major thoroughfares (Rangoon-Mandalay highway) are receiving attention from the government and some safety improvements are being made by the international community, many roads are remain unreliable or may be impassable after heavy rains. Many roads are unpaved, unlighted, lacking shoulders, or poorly graded. Motorists speeding under these hazardous conditions result in rising highway fatalities.

Vehicle import restrictions have been lifted, and taxes/duties have been eased, causing the number of vehicles on Rangoon’s streets to increase by more than double in recent years. Many motorists are new to driving. Narrow streets – congested with vehicles, pedestrians, animals – and poor maintaince of roads and traffic infrastructure can result in difficult daily commutes. Drivers are often impatient and exhibit little consideration for pedestrians, other motorist’s right-of-way, or general safe driving practices.

Pedestrians tend to walk on or in the middle of roads or stand on painted lane dividers often only inches from passing vehicles, seemingly unaware of the potential safety hazard. Many pedestrians wear dark clothing, and local drivers tend to use high beams at night (or no headlights), posing additional risks to driving.

By law, no alcohol is permitted in one’s system while operating a vehicle. Nevertheless, drunk driving is a major concern and poses a significant risk to visitors at night.

Outside of Rangoon, drivers also have to contend with ubiquitous motorbikes. Traffic police are often inefficient; enforcement of traffic regulations is often haphazard and/or a means to solicit bribes. Police will often signal motorists to pull over for a donation or so-called tea money.

Always keep adequate space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you to ensure that you can maneuver in the event of a situation requiring escape from the area. Be aware of what is taking place outside of the vehicle. Motorists should always attempt to park in secure, well-lighted locations. Do not hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers. Practice good operational security if you are transporting valuable items.

Public Transportation Conditions

Public transportation (taxis, bus, and rail) is readily available in Rangoon and some parts of the country. Most trains and buses are overcrowded; others are old and poorly maintained, frequently causing them to be out of service or increasing the likelihood that they may break down during long journeys.

In Rangoon, taxis are a more reliable method of transportation. They are generally considered safe, but many are poorly maintained and/or lack seatbelts. There have been incidents involving attacks and muggings by taxi drivers. Citizens are advised to take particular care when taking taxis late at night. To avoid confrontation or overcharging, rates should be negotiated with the driver prior to departure.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has not assessed Burma’s compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization safety standards. The safety records of Burma’s commercial air carriers are not readily available, but personal anecdotes, years of international sanctions, and the inability to import replacement aircraft parts would suggest that they are sub-standard. There is no information available regarding the government’s oversight of commercial aviation.

Other Travel Conditions

The rainy season (May-October) presents additional challenges (mud, deep puddles, flooding, glare from oncoming headlights, near-zero visibility). Visitors should familiarize themselves with flood-prone areas and travel in a high-clearance 4x4 vehicle. Visitors should also exercise caution while travelling near lakes, rivers, or the ocean. Inclement weather may add several hours of travel time. Fuel stations and police assistance are limited outside of Rangoon and other major towns/cities, and motorists should plan accordingly.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED RANGOON AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The government is sensitive to the threat of terrorism and is engaged with international partners. There is no evidence to suggest that terrorist organizations have operational capacity in Burma or are actively targeting Western interests there. Although a U.S. citizen was injured in a bombing at the Traders (now Shangri-La) Hotel in October 2013, the individual does not appear to have been the intended target. The government is not a state sponsor of terrorist activities and does not allow foreign fighters to transit the country. Visitors should consider that any large public gatherings could become attractive targets for terrorists.

·         In late 2016, there were several unsophisticated IED attacks in Rangoon area grocery stores and government buildings; these resulted in some property damage, but no injuries. Police detained the bomber and indicated that the attacks were not politically- or ethno-religiously motivated. 

·         In October 2016, three Border Guard Police outposts in northern Rakhine state were attacked, resulting in the deaths of 15 security officials, according to government reports. Attackers seized weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Security forces’ operations resulted in the deaths of at least 17 members of the security forces and 69 of attackers. Several videos were released calling for Rohingya men to join the fight against the government of Burma.

During episodes of sectarian violence, there have been upticks in postings on jihadist websites, accompanied by suggestions that Islamist fighters be sent to Burma to retaliate for attacks against the Muslims in Rakhine state.

·         In September 2014, a video message released by al-Qa’ida's media arm announced the creation of a new branch of the organization in South Asia. In response to these potential threats, the government tightened security and took preventative measures at potential targets (the international airport in Rangoon, Buddhist holy sites (Shwedagon Pagoda)).

Burma hosted numerous, large public events in 2014, including the Pan-Asia Games and Association of South East Asia (ASEAN) summit, all which took place without major security incidents.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED RANGOON AS BEING A MEDIUM THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Burma’s defining challenge is how the country’s diverse people can overcome a history of fractiousness in order to live together and hold the country together through political means. Since its independence in 1948, Burma has been at war. The civil conflict is one of the world’s longest and has involved every major ethnic group. Since 2011, the government has negotiated cease-fire agreements with 14 ethnic armed groups (EAGs), though clashes continue to occur even with some of these under ceasefire. In October 2015, the government and eight EAGs signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA); however, numerous EAGs, primarily in the north and northeast, did not sign on. Ongoing clashes between the government and EAGs do not always correspond to NCA signatory areas; non-signatory groups in the southeast have existing bilateral ceasefires and have not engaged in clashes with the government in many years, while fighting has occurred in parts of Shan and Karen States covered by the NCA. These clashes are sporadic, but war has escalated significantly with EAGs in the northern Kachin and Shan states, including the use of heavy weapons, airstrikes, and large troop deployments.

Historical national elections were held November 2015, and the Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) won. No civil unrest or political violence broke out during the elections. Though the NLD won a wide majority of votes, the constitution requires that 25% of parliamentary seats remain in the hands of the military. Although tensions remain high, the landmark 2015 general elections did not give rise to intercommunal and general political violence.

Civil Unrest

Intercommunal conflicts, public demonstrations, and outbursts of violence may challenge U.S. private sector organizations and could jeopardize U.S. investments and operations, even if they are not directly targeted. Visitors are cautioned to avoid large crowds, demonstrations, political activity and to maintain a high level of situational awareness.

Overall, there has recently been been an increase in small- to mid-size protests. Violent responses to peaceful demonstrations, coupled with endemic corruption, weak rule of law/governance challenges, widespread ethno-sectarian tensions, significant narcotics production/trafficking, privacy concerns, and infrastructure shortages make unrest possible and add to the uncertainty that U.S. private sector organizations are likely to face when attempting to enter the market. In the past, the government has arrested protestors for contravening the Peaceful Assembly Act by protesting without permission.

Although public protests – often in response to human rights violations, land conflicts, forced resettlements, education, labor rights – are normally peaceful, spontaneous rioting may occur.

·         There have been large demonstrations regarding the government’s failure to deliver public services (electricity), as was the case in the summer of 2012, though these tended to be peaceful.

·         In 2015, after days of negotiations, police officers clashed with hundreds of students who had been protesting against a controversial education bill.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Burma has over 135 officially-recognized ethnic groups (national races). While Burma’s ethnic diversity is a source of national pride, it has also led to a long, brutal history of violent ethnic and sectarian conflicts. Burma has 18 armies that represent the Kayin, Kachin, Shan, Mon, and Wa minorities, among others. Each of these groups controls areas along Burma’s borders, and, according to some sources, ethnic insurgents total 100,000 fighters. Most of these groups share a deep suspicion of the central government and a desire to form a federal army in which ethnic minorities are represented equally with the Burmans who currently dominate the Union’s military (Tatmadaw).

Armed ethnic groups in border regions continue to engage in criminal activities (narcotics production/trafficking, gem/timber smuggling, human trafficking). According to some sources, the government considers enforcement of these illicit activities secondary to security and tacitly permits narcotics trafficking in border areas in exchange for cooperation from armed ethnic groups.

Burma experiences periodic, low-order bombings. These bombings are often perpetrated by EAGs or other anti-state actors and are usually designed to intimidate or harass.

·         In 2016, there were bombings in northern, western, and eastern Burma, as well as in supermarkets and a police station in Rangoon. While some of the bombings caused casualties, nearly all targeted Burma government economic or security interests. EAGs have used IEDs in Shan and Kachin States during attacks on government security forces.

Civilians have been killed in the north and northeast as a result of airstrikes and increased use of heavy weapons by Burma’s military.

Intercommunal tension also exists between Buddhist and Muslim populations, including an estimated one million Muslims (Rohingya) in Rakhine state. Many of Burma’s ethnic groups view this population as illegal immigrants. The government does not recognize Rohingya as a minority, and most are not considered Burmese citizens, so they are unable to obtain identification cards or travel documents. Muslims in Rakhine state face abuse, institutionalized discrimination, restrictions on freedom of movement, and often suffer from a lack of access to education, livelihoods, and basic services. As a result, many have fled via boat to Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia (most notably in 2015). Tensions in Rakhine state claimed dozens of lives in 2012 and resulted in the displacement of 140,000 people and the destruction of thousands of homes/businesses. Between 2013 and 2014, an escalation in tensions between hardline Buddhists and the minority Muslim population resulted in violence, including in Rangoon and Mandalay. There were significantly fewer incidents in 2015 compared to previous years.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

During the rainy season (May-October), street flooding is pervasive in southern cities without adequate drainage systems. Low-lying villages are susceptible to floods that often result in food shortages and other health concerns. Rangoon lacks the drainage infrastructure to accommodate storm water runoff. As a result, low-lying parts of Rangoon and major vehicle thoroughfares suffer from flash flooding.

·         In July 2015, exceptionally heavy rains caused widespread flooding and landslides in central and western Burma. President Thein Sein’s office announced natural disaster zones in Chin state, Sagaing region, Magway region, and Rakhine state.

Burma is prone to cyclones.

·         Cyclone Giri in October 2010 caused destruction and some deaths in Rakhine state.

·         Cyclone Nargis in May 2008 caused extensive flooding and damage in the Irrawaddy Delta region and led to thousands of deaths. In Rangoon, the cyclone severely damaged transportation, communication, and electrical systems.

Major earthquake fault lines are present, and should be considered when developing potential contingency planning.

Critical Infrastructure

The former military junta chronically mismanaged the economy and failed to invest in critical infrastructure projects, allowing the country’s transit infrastructure, electrical grid, telecommunications network, and tourism facilities to fall into disrepair. Burma’s infrastructure is sub-par compared to regional neighbors and will require vast investment and years of work. An old, inadequate electrical power infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges, leading to frequent blackouts, even in major urban centers, as demand continues to outpace supply.

Burma’s telecommunications and Internet infrastructure is substandard, and access is limited outside of urban areas and large towns. An estimated 75% of the population has access to cell phones, and approximately 4% have landlines, making communication by telephone somewhat difficult. In June 2013, the government awarded a tender for telecommunications licenses to two international companies: Telenor and Ooredoo. Their build-out of infrastructure has resulted in an expansion in, and improvement to, the quality of telecom services. Travelers should understand that they may not have access to cellular networks and should consider redundant/alternative forms of communication.

Economic Concerns

According to Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, Burma moved from 147 (2015) to 136 (2016). However, corruption is a serious barrier to investment/commerce and permeates the government and economy. U.S. companies may find competitors are able to obtain an advantage when proposing or bidding on projects, although the government has taken clear steps to improve the transparency and evaluation of major tenders and to tackle official corruption. U.S. companies generally find that government officials and businesspeople are less likely to seek or expect facilitation payments or other gifts than elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

U.S. firms consider the lack of clarity surrounding commercial laws and regulations and the lack of adequate infrastructure (reliable electricity) to be the most serious impediments to doing business. The government has focused on drafting and passing commercial laws, including the October 2016 Investment Law and draft Companies Act, under discussion in Parliament.

The absence of rule of law is an impediment for U.S. private sector organizations. The judicial system is archaic, and decisions are often made through personal relationships or bribes. Burma suffers from an antiquated legal system and outdated legislation; many laws are vague and often subject to manipulation. According to the World Bank Doing Business 2016 report, in the East Asia and Pacific Region, Burma ranked number 18 out of 25 for starting a new business and third to last (23) for both enforcing contracts and protecting minority investors. The country has introduced reforms, including the 2014 decision to reduce the corporate income tax rate.

Privacy Concerns

Government interest in the activities of foreigners persists. Visitors conducting sensitive political or commercial business should assume that their actions are being monitored, especially in public places. Because the government controls the country’s telephone network and Internet providers, calls/emails can be intercepted. Depending upon the government’s level of interest, overt surveillance may be employed. American private sector organizations should be aware that the “no expectation of privacy” policy can make the discussion of proprietary information and sensitive information difficult.

Travelers are encouraged to protect all financial and personal information. Do not discuss travel plans or other business in an open venue. Be alert to any unusual surveillance or activity near the places you frequently visit. Vary your routes/times. According to police sources, some robberies committed against expatriates appear to have been carried out by persons with inside information regarding the victims.

Drug-related Crimes

Although several ethnic groups in border regions are heavily involved in the manufacture and trafficking of narcotics, these activities are not typically accompanied by widespread or brazen violence. Some of these ethnic groups use the proceeds of the drug trade to engage in armed conflict with the government. Additionally, elements of the government’s police and military are suspected of being involved or complicit in narcotics operations. Burma is second in the world for opium production, behind Afghanistan. Methamphetamines are another major narcotic that is produced in Burma.

Police Response

While foreigners may be viewed as wealthy, there continues to be a perception that crimes against Americans and other Westerners are investigated more thoroughly and punished more rigorously. This belief has been reinforced with the government’s establishment of a “Tourist Police” unit in 2013, a decision in January 2015 to reinforce and strengthen that unit, and the installation of billboards directing nationals to “warmly welcome” foreigners and “take care” of them.

Police capability, responsiveness, and professionalism is substandard compared to the U.S. Police units are often under-funded, under-staffed, and poorly equipped/trained, and suffer from limited resources and corruption. Most crimes go unreported or are not investigated. Police response times can be long, if they at all. Lack of adequate transportation is often cited as an excuse for slow response. Few police officers speak English.

All persons should attempt to cooperate and follow the instructions of police at checkpoints to avoid problems. All visitors should obey all local laws and follow any instructions given to them by local authorities.

Always ask permission before taking a photograph. Local citizens may request a small fee for taking a picture of them or their surroundings. Do not photograph government buildings, embassies, military installations, airports, harbors, or other locations or items of a possible security or intelligence interest; cameras may be confiscated. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Corruption is a problem throughout police ranks. Low-pay and low-morale create an environment in which even bribes of a few dollars can make allegations disappear. Some government officials reportedly collaborate with criminals or carry out crimes themselves under the protection of their official status. It is not recommended to pay bribes, comply with requests for a gift, or pay on-the-spot fines.

If an officer persists, comply with instructions, identify yourself as a U.S. citizen, obtain the officer’s name and badge number, and politely ask to speak with a supervisor or request to be taken to police headquarters for further processing. Police are required to notify the Embassy when an American citizen has been arrested; however, they consistently fail to do so. If arrested, be certain to assert this right and request to speak with a representative from the U.S. Embassy by calling (95)-1-536-509 ext. 4240 or (95)-9-512-4330 (after normal business hours).

Crime Victim Assistance

Central police (Rangoon and Mandalay): 199

Fire emergency: 191 or 192

Tourist police: 01-378-479 (Rangoon); 09-448-539-507 (Mandalay)

The U.S. Embassy maintains a liaison with local law enforcement officials and is available to assist American citizens during their stay in Burma.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities and services fall critically short of U.S and European standards. Trauma care is extremely limited, and local hospitals should only be used in the event of an extreme medical emergency. Many primary health care workers, especially in rural areas, lack adequate professional training. Instances of misdiagnosis, improper treatment, and the administration of improper drugs have been reported. Quality and comprehensive medical services are very limited in Rangoon and are almost nonexistent for all but the most minor treatment outside of the capital. Due to inadequate diagnostic equipment, lack of medical resources, and limited medical specialty personnel, complex diagnoses and treatment are unavailable.

Medicines may be in short supply, and approximately 30% of medicines are counterfeit products or of questionable quality. Visitors should bring their own supply of medications, as the quality of medications is inconsistent. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.” In the event that medications – such as over-the-counter drugs, antibiotics, allergy remedies, or malaria prophylaxis – are needed, travelers may contact the U.S. Embassy's American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit to receive information about reliable pharmacies.

Visitors with serious health concerns – diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or who are on blood thinners (excluding aspirin) – are discouraged from traveling to Burma.

Most health care facilities require patients to pay before being admitted to a hospital or receiving treatment and require them to settle the bill in full with cash prior to discharge from the hospital. Foreigners are commonly charged a higher rate than local residents for most medical services.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

American Citzen Services maintains a list of physicians, clinics, and pharmacies in Rangoon (Yangon) generated by the Embassy Health Unit.

Nay Pyi Taw

Nay Pyi Taw General Hospital (also called “the 1,000 Bedded Hospital”)

Zabu Thiri Township, Nay Pyi Taw (Near Tha Pyae Gone roundabout)

Tel: 067-420-096/97, 09-519-8993, 09-681-3239

Thiri Thukha Medicare Center (Private)

No. 1194, Yaza Tun Ni Road, Pyinmana, Nay Pyi Taw

Tel: 09-830-3830, 067-23553, 067-251-65169

Bawga Theiddhi Hospital (Private), located at Ziwaka Pharmacy Shop, Tha Pyae Gone Market

Zabu Thiri Township, Nay Pyi Taw

Tel: 067-432-361, 09-493-19573, 09-493-19574

Oattaya Thiri Hospital

Yarza Thingaha Rd, Oattaya Thiri Shopping Complex, Nay Pyi Taw

(Corner of Yaza Thinga Ha Road & Thiri Mandine Street)

Tel: 067-417-003, 067-417-350-4

Available Air Ambulance Services

Air medevac services can be arranged through the SOS Clinic or through LEO.

Insurance Guidance

All travelers are advised to purchase insurance to cover medical evacuation in case of a serious accident, injury, or illness. Medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the situation, so all travelers should ensure their policies provide sufficient coverage.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Travelers are advised to see a physician prior to travelling to ensure that appropriate vaccines, immunizations, and precautions are taken. Gastrointestinal diseases, tuberculosis, dengue fever, malaria, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis also pose a serious risk to travelers. For extended stays outside of Rangoon, the Japanese encephalitis vaccination is recommended as are malaria prophylaxis. Visitors should begin taking malaria prophylaxis prior to arrival and hand-carry enough medication for the duration of their visit. The cholera vaccine is not required.

 

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Burma.

OSAC Country Council Information

Embassy Rangoon has an active OSAC Country Council that meets quarterly and communicates regularly via an email distribution. For more information on the Country Council, please contact RSO Jessica Moore or tel: (95) 1-536-509, x. 4333. The RSO provides country briefings for representatives of U.S. businesses, non-governmental organizations, academia, and faith-based organizations as requested.

Please contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy and Hours of Operation

U.S. Embassy Rangoon (Yangon)

110 University Avenue, Kamayut Township

Rangoon (Yangon), Burma (Myanmar)

Embassy Hours: Mon-Fri, 0800-1630 (except U.S. and local holidays)

American Citizen Services: Mon-Fri, 1400-1530 (by appointment)

The Embassy is available 24-hours a day to assist U.S. citizens in emergencies.

Embassy Contact Numbers

Main telephone (24-hour): (95) 1-536-509

Consular Section: (95) 1-536-509 x. 4240

Duty Officer: (95) 9-512-4330

Marine Security Guard Post One: (95) 1-536-509 x. 4014

Regional Security Office: (95) 1-536-509 x. 4225

Website: http://burma.usembassy.gov/service.html

Embassy Guidance

All Americans should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) when traveling to Burma. U.S. citizens wishing to conduct business in Burma should consult the Embassy Rangoon Economic Section website for advice and words of caution. Visitors are also encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy Consular Section online or in person.

A passport and visa are required for entry; passports must have at least six months validity in them. The government’s visa-on-arrival program is available only to business travelers sponsored by businesses registered with the Ministry of Commerce. There is no visa-on-arrival program for tourists; however, Burma’s e-visa program allows tourists to apply for a visa online rather than physically applying at an embassy or consulate. Once tourists are approved for the visa, the visa needs to be used within three months. Tourists can use the e-visa to enter at Yangon International Airport or at Mandalay International Airport. Visas can still be obtained at the Embassy and Consulates of Burma in the U.S.

Additional Resources

The Consular Section also maintains a blog called “Rangoon Snippets” and a Facebook page that contain relevant information for those residing in or visiting Burma.  

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Rangoon can offer some assistance in due diligence endeavors (contact: Arkar Kyaw; AmCham Myanmar Chapter Coordinator). Additionally, the Embassy’s Commercial Section can assist companies in identifying legitimate business partners (contact: Manoj S. Desai, Senior Commercial Officer).

Burma (Myanmar) Country Information Sheet