1.10.2012

Should you travel to Myanmar?

Migrant workers from Myanmar return home after being expelled from Thailand -- far from those sunny beaches
     Well, in case you wondered, we have now found Alison Mager's button -- the sunny beaches of Myanmar.  Alison reacted to a recent article in the New York Times by saying that "the article strains my commitment to non-violence." And in the best of Amnesty style and passion, a lively discussion has ensued on the Myanmar listserv.
     The article listed 45 places to go in 2012, and in the number three spot was Myanmar, a destination with "renowned cultural treasures, world-class boutique hotels and deserted beaches."   The listserv discussion has focused on the pros and cons of travel to the area:  the extent to which tourism enriches the government or may benefit the people with exposure and cash.
     Until late 2010, the National League for Democracy (NLD) had called for a travel boycott to Myanmar.  However, U Win Tin, leader of the NLD announced a revision of the policy by saying "We want people to come to Burma, not to help the junta, but to help the people by understanding the situation: political, economic, moral – everything." But he added: "To have a very big cruise ship with hundreds of tourists coming in – that's a lot of money for the regime, and so we don't like such big business."
     Where does Amnesty stand on travel to Myanmar?  Andrea Wolper pointed out that "Amnesty does not endorse or call for boycotts so in that sense there's no Amnesty perspective."  Country Specialist Jim Roberts agreed, adding:   "We all know that tourism income benefits the government, but that is outside our area of direct concern.  However, we can use the issue of travel to Myanmar, as the NYC Myanmar Action Team has done, to encourage travelers and travel companies to inform themselves about human rights conditions."
     Speaking of the NYC Myanmar Action Team -- check out the wonderful website they developed called Human Rights and Travel.  Jim has suggested that we respond to the NY Times article by referring readers to this website.
     I feel this little post must end with Alison, however -- in her words:  "Land of 'boutique hotels'   OH PLEASSSSSE."

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