Myanmar: Go or no go?

Myanmar. Country with a military dictatorship that is among the most brutal and oppressive regimes in the world. Following elections in 1989, its military rulers refused to hand over power to the democratically elected government, prompting a call for economic sanctions and a tourism boycott. In more recent times, peaceful demonstrations have been disrupted by force and there have been reports of illegal detention, beatings and killings.

Going to Myanmar now would not only imply going into a country “at risk” but also into a country where most of the money ends up in the hands of a dictator. International tourism can be seen as a stamp of approval to the Myanmar government.

On the other hand Myanmar is also one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, suffering from decades of stagnation, mismanagement and isolation. Tourism remains one of the few industries to which ordinary locals have access – in terms of income and communication: tourism has been promoted as a method of providing economic benefit to Burmese civilians, and to avoid isolating the country from the rest of the world.

Going to Myanmar now would thus mean giving a fair chance to local, ordinary people, who didn’t choose to live with and suffer from this regime to make an honest living and tell their story to the “outside world”.

We decided to go and by the time you read this we are already in a plane from Bangkok to Yangon (the capital) for a 24 days stay. During this stay we will not have any access to internet, as most websites are heavily controlled and blocked by the government.

In order to minimize our support of the government and maximize the positive effects of our visit among the local population, we will stay at private, locally owned guest houses, not go on package tours (we never do, so that will be nothing new), avoid using any transport owned by MTT (Myanmar Travel and Tours – the state travel agency) and buy handicrafts directly from the local population instead of from the government owned stores.

We’ll report about our visit after the 20th of March, when we will be back in Thailand again.

Vera & Jean-Christophe


One Comment

  1. Posted February 24, 2008 at 18:15 | Permalink

    Après cet article, vous avez peut-être intérêt à ne pas vous faire repérer là-bas…. Bisous