5 January 2022, Sittwe
The Sittwe branch passport office in Arakan State has suspended operations for two weeks for a system upgrade, a passport office source told DMG.
“I heard the system upgrade will take two weeks or less. I don’t know details about the upgrade. The software upgrade is being done by the Yangon office. This is all I can tell,” he said.
Despite the temporary closure, the Sittwe branch office continues to issue passports sent back from the Yangon office.
“We issue the passports sent back from Yangon, but we are not accepting applications or proceeding with them,” said the source.
The Sittwe branch passport office has been closed since January 1, causing delays for passport applicants, many of whom are hoping to leave Arakan State for better economic prospects overseas.
The Sittwe passport office has seen high traffic for months as new applicants scrape together what money they can for a chance at better salaries abroad. While some have pawned or sold their property, others have borrowed money to pay the substantial costs of acquiring a passport.
“They have applied for passports through middlemen, and paid the costs by either selling their cattle and farms or borrowing money from others. They will have difficulties due to the office closure,” said U Than Hlaing, manager of an overseas employment agency.
Sittwe resident Maung Kyaw Tin Tun said: “I came from Yangon to apply for a passport here. But the office is closed. And I can only wait for it to reopen.”
Amid rising unemployment and soaring costs of living in Myanmar’s post-coup political turmoil, many residents of Arakan State are leaving the country for jobs overseas, drawn by promises of higher wages.