Criminal Penalties in Burma

While you are traveling in Burma, you are subject to its laws, even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. It is illegal to take pictures of Burmese officials and of certain buildings, such as military installations and government buildings. There are also some things that might be legal in Burma, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.

While in Burma, you should carry your U.S. passport or a photocopy of passport data and visa pages at all times so that if you are questioned by Burmese officials, you will have proof of your U.S. citizenship readily available. It is important to remember, however, that your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution for violating local laws.

Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type. This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, denial of access to court records, and denial of family and consular visits. Although the current civilian government has repealed some of the laws that prohibited people from exercising many of the rights that U.S. citizens enjoy in the United States – including the freedoms of assembly and speech – there are still many laws on the books that criminalize things that are not illegal in the United States. For example, Burmese law forbids Burmese citizens from possessing dual nationality.

Under the Burmese Motor Vehicle Act of 1964, driving while intoxicated is punishable by either six months in jail, or a 500 kyat (equivalent to USD 50 cents) fine, or both.

Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and customary international law, if you are arrested in Burma, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the U.S. Embassy of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the U.S. Embassy.

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