Should tourism in Burma be boycotted ?

The English-speaking guide has announced that it will suspend coverage of the country following several events. Tourism is suffering a decline in the arrivals of Westerners, while Asian countries continue to travel and support Burma. We give you our opinion.

Events relayed worldwide

It is clear that most publications on Burma are quite negative. There was the serious problem with the Muslim community of the Rohingya. One of the military officials could be accused of genocide by the International Tribunal. Then, two journalists from the Reuter agency were arbitrarily sentenced to 7 years in prison for investigating massacres in Rohingya. The whole world is tackling Aung San Suu Kyi’s strange passivity.

Burma is trying to emerge from its 50 years of isolation

Aung San Suu Kyi said a few months ago that her government was still young (only two years in power) and that efforts to establish democracy in the country would take time after more than half a century of military power.

In the Constitution, to this day, the role of the Commander-in-Chief (who is the ultimate military authority) often replaces that of the President. In addition to appointing military candidates to both houses of parliament, the Constitution also allows the Commander-in-Chief, in a state of emergency, « to exercise the sovereign power of the State« .

The Constitution also prohibits « retroactive » criminal law. This prevents the army from being prosecuted for past crimes.

A leader with limited power

Aung San Suu Kyi, recently acknowledged that his government could have better managed the Rohingya crisis, while indicating that it did not have total control over what was happening in the country, given that the army still holds considerable power.

She stated that her political party did not accept the presence of unelected military personnel and wanted to « negotiate a step-by-step change » in order to preserve the country’s stability. With regard to the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh, Aung Sang Suu Kyi attributed this delay in part to the lack of preparedness of the neighbouring country.

Finally, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate must be careful not to lose the support of the predominantly Buddhist population.

Tourism up slightly thanks to the support of Asians

Zaw Myo Latt, Deputy Director of the Tourism Promotion Department of the Ministry of Burma, said visitor arrivals to Myanmar increased by 2% last July to reach about 777,300 people. Government statistics showed that Asia, up 12%, was the only region to make progress. Arrivals from North America are down 15%.
Western European ones are down sharply with -26% of visitors.

Burma was present at Travel Mart 2018

The country was represented at the Travel Mart organized by PATA in Malaysia recently. The business went smoothly. Burma (or Myanmar) mainly attacks the Asian market, including China, Japan and South Korea. Tourists from Thailand, Malaysia and India were also on the rise. Burma, together with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, had a prominent place at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre’s exhibitors’ fair in Langkawi. The Myanmar stand was located near the main entrance of the exhibition, right next to Tourism Malaysia, the host country of the event. No calls for a boycott have been made.

Pata’s boss opposes a boycott of the destination

Mario Hardy (photo), head of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, said in an interview that the situation in Myanmar was « terrible », but that he would oppose the boycott of Myanmar because of its human rights practices.

Mario Hardy added that he was opposed to the boycott of travel in general because it tends to hurt local travel providers more than governments.

Other countries could also be boycotted

Burma’s image has been tarnished by this serious Rohingya crisis and by the many international criticisms levelled at Aung Sang Suu Kyi. But many other countries would also deserve to be banished from nations like the United States that send illegal immigrants to prison. President Erdogan in Turkey, who for many months has been carrying out massive repression of his opponents. Saudi Arabia for its war in Yemen for several months and which recently targeted a bus where at least 29 children died. In short, the list could be long.

No, we must not boycott Burma. We must support tourism and its fragile democracy.

Serge Fabre

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