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Myanmar trims 2,082 names off its blacklist

Myanmar's government has trimmed 2,082 names from its notorious blacklist, opening traveling privileges to roughly a third of the people officially barred from entering or leaving the country, an official said Tuesday.

The move was the latest sign of change as President Thein Sein's government implements reforms after decades of harsh military rule. It came a day after he announced a sweeping Cabinet shake-up seen as an effort to remove hardliners opposed to reform in the country previously called Burma.

State media reported Tuesday that the government had removed 2,082 names from its 6,165-person blacklist — meaning Myanmar's blacklist now targets 4,083 people.

"These relaxations are in line with the country's transformation," Presidential spokesman Nay Zin Latt told The Associated Press. He said more names would eventually be stricken and "only those who were put on the blacklist due to criminal and other economic misdemeanors will remain on the blacklist."

Neither the spokesman nor the news reports gave details about the blacklist, which has included journalists, critics and a wide range of people that the former military junta deemed a threat to national security.

It blocks foreigners and Burmese abroad from entering the country and also prohibits certain Burmese nationals from leaving.

The New Light of Myanmar indicated that at least some of those removed from the list were Burmese nationals abroad. It reported that the changes give a "green light ... to those Myanmar citizens who are currently in foreign countries enabling them to return home."

The new government took office in March 2010 after the country's first elections in 20 years. Until now, it has continued to update the blacklist as it sees fit.

Among those famously blacklisted was former Bond girl Michelle Yeoh, who played pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in "The Lady," which was released last year. Yeoh had met Suu Kyi on an initial visit but was deported upon arrival for her second visit in June 2011 and informed she was blacklisted.

Author Benedict Rogers, who wrote a 2010 biography on former junta chief Than Shwe has been blacklisted and un-blacklisted a few times.

"This is an encouraging and positive step," said Rogers. "I hope all of the other people on the list will be removed except those who genuinely pose a security threat to the country."