Rangoon (Mizzima) – Burma’s new government has voiced concern about the need to tackle the endemic corruption in the country. In many areas of everyday life, citizens face a call for bribes or extra payments, the cost of which can be hard to pay for a person on a low income.
One process that ought to be free is house registration. Burmese citizens must keep the authorities informed of their whereabouts and need to be registered. In theory, this process is free. During the new government’s first parliamentary session, Minister of Immigration and Manpower Ministry Maung Oo briefed MPs saying application for household registration were being processed without delay if the papers were in order and it would not cost money.
According to Maung Oo’s briefing, the head of household should come in person and he or she must bring an application letter, Immigration Form 10 issued by the township of his or her last address, residential proof of the old address, the original and copy of ownership certificate of the house of the last address, original and copy of the occupational certificate issued by the city development committee in case of a new flat and apartment, and the rent agreement signed by a landlord for the tenants.
But in practice, Mizzima found the real situation is not as straightforward as the minister described and money often has to change hands if the required documentation is to be obtained.
Anecdotal evidence offered by a number of people Mizzima talked to offers an insight into the difficulties. On occasions, it would appear, it helps having friends in positions of authority.
Tun Kyaw (Thanlyin)
“I have lived in Thanlyin now for about six years, moved from Thaketa. First I lived with my parents when I got married. Now my parents have died and we sold our house and divided the proceeds of the sale among our siblings. Now I live in a rented dwelling. My name is on Immigration Form 10 and the household registration issued by the Thaketa Township Immigration Department. This is a Thaketa address. I have not yet got a new household registration with this new address in Thanlyin Township. As far as I remember, yes, we didn’t need to pay any money to get this household registration as they were issued on our doorstep in the past. When I had my children, their names were inserted in our household registration free of charge too. We gathered at a house in our locality and made the insertion of additional family members in our household registration. We could obtain the death certificate and death registrations easily in the past as with birth registrations.
“Now this situation has changed. Making a household registration will cost you at least 50,000 kyat (US$ 62). How can those who live hand to mouth afford such a large amount? Despite it being said that this essential document is issued free of charge, the situation has not yet changed. If they really want to issue this document easily and free of charge, they should visit door to door as they did in the past. We are still living with a temporary household registration certificate.”
Cho Lwin Khaing Oo (Tamwe)
“My first baby daughter was just born, and I made an insertion of an additional family member in my household registration. I found the news reported by the weekly journals saying the household registrations were being issued easily and free of charge. But I haven’t yet got this document in this way. I sent my husband to the immigration office to register. He got the document on the same day, but my husband said that he had to give 15,000 kyat (US$ 18.75) as a tip. The lady staff member asked him for tip money saying, ‘I issue this document on the same day so please give me some tea (tip) money.’ When my husband asked how much for the tea money, she replied 15,000 kyat was enough for her. Then my husband gave this money without making any complaint or bargaining. He also comforted me by saying this practice was rampant and normal everywhere and not to make any complaint. We had to give this tea money despite the news in the journals that we do not need to pay any money.”
Than Htoo (Hlaing Township)
“I visited the Immigration Office last week to list my daughter-in-law as a new family member in our household registration. We didn’t need to pay any money there because the officials at the township immigration office are my close friends.”