Since 1962 Myanmar
has been under the military rule of the State Peace & Development
Council (SPDC) - formerly known as the State Law & Order Restoration
Council (Slorc) - an abominable military junta. Dissent of any sort is
suppressed, and political prisoners are jailed for expressing their
opinions publicly. A number of these prisoners have died in custody.
Travellers wishing to learn more about political prisoners in Myanmar
should go to Amnesty International's website at
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and National League for Democracy (NLD)
leader Aung San Suu Kyi advocates boycotting all forms of travel to
the country as a means of isolating the government and forcing reform.
Inside Myanmar, there are a number of people who support her stance.
This pro-boycott group argues that much of the money from tourism goes
directly and indirectly into the pockets of the very generals who
continue to deny Burmese citizens the most-basic civil rights.
However, others involved with Burmese politics, including many current
or former members of the NLD, feel that a travel boycott of Myanmar is
counterproductive. They maintain that tourism is not only economically
helpful, but vital to the pro-democracy movement for the two-way flow
of information it provides.
Prospective travellers should monitor events in Myanmar and weigh up
the arguments in support and opposition to travel.
The situation in Burma remains unsettled and travellers are advised to
remain informed as to developments in the country. Check local travel
advisories such as the
US State Department.
Curfews have been imposed in some areas and caution is recommended to
Should you go to Myanmar?
The decision as to whether or not to travel to Myanmar is best
made after an appraisal of the pros and cons of such a visit.
Reasons Not to Go
can be seen to give a stamp of approval to the SPDC.
Aung San Suu Kyi and the
NLD have called on the international community to boycott travel to
Myanmar until the candidates elected in 1990 are allowed to form a
The government keeps
travellers away from areas where forced labour or repression of
minorities is occurring
It is difficult to avoid
some government-owned businesses, tourism sites and transport, and
impossible to avoid the mandatory purchase of US$200 worth of FECs
Forced labour has been
used to construct some of the country's tourism infrastructure.
Reasons to Go
Tourism remains one of
the few industries to which ordinary Burmese have access. Any
reduction in tourism means a reduction in local income-earning
It is becoming
increasingly possible to travel in Myanmar without staying in
government-owned hotels, using government-owned transport etc.
activists within Myanmar itself argue that sanctions are
counter-productive, and that economic development can lead to
Keeping the Burmese
isolated from international witnesses to internal oppression may
only cement the government's control.
If You Decide to Go
In order to maximise the positive effects of a visit among the
general populace, while minimising support of the government, follow
these simple tactics:
Stay at private, locally
owned hotels and guesthouses.
Avoid package tours
connected with Myanmar Travel & Tours.
modes of transport, such as the Yangon-Mandalay Express trains, the
MTT ferry between Mandalay and Bagan, and Myanma Airways (MA)
Buy handicrafts directly
from the artisans, rather than from government shops.
companies involved with the military-owned Myanmar Economic
Holdings. Companies with solid links to the Tatmadaw (armed forces)
are often called Myawadi or Myawaddy.
Write to the Myanmar
government and to the Myanmar embassy in your country expressing
your views about the human-rights situation there
Full country name:
Union of Myanmar (Burma became Myanmar in 1989 after the State Law and
Order Restoration Council decided that the old name implied the
dominance of Burmese culture; the Burmese are just one of the many
ethnic groups in the country)
Area: 671,000 sq km (416,020 sq mi)
Population: 45 million (growth rate 2.1%)
Capital city: Yangon (Rangoon) (pop 4 million)
People: 65% Burmese, 10% Shan, 7% Karen, 4% Rakhine and Chin,
Kachin, Mon, Chinese, Indian and Assamese minorities
Language: Burmese, also Karen, Chin, Shan and Kachin dialects
Religion: 87% Theravada Buddhist, 5% Christian, 4% Muslim, 3%
Government: Military council
Head of state & Prime Minister: General Than Shwe
GDP: US$67 billion
GDP per head: US$1500
Annual growth: 1.1%
Major products/industries:teak, rice, jute and illegal opium
Major trading partners: Singapore, Thailand, China, Japan,