Travel in Burma
Right or Wrong?
We urge clients to decide for themselves, having read the facts about Burma’s situation & the most recent recommendations made by the Burmese National League for Democracy (NLD) & its leader, Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.
Anyone interested in travelling in Burma will be aware of its unfavourable political situation. Many people worry about doing trade with the country under its current government, or funding the military regime in any way. Perhaps the biggest question you have to answer when arranging a holiday in Myanmar is whether you should even go there at all.
Until mid-2010 our answer was “no”. Although it’s long been one of the planet’s most tempting travel destinations, Burma is also one of the most politically corrupt & unjust nations in history.
Although mass tourism is still not encouraged - the 2010 elections were far from democratic - Aung San Suu Kyi is now suggesting that small groups & independent travellers should visit Burma to see what is going on for themselves. As she said in a 2002 interview with the BBC:
“Burma is not going to disappear; it's going to stay here. We hope that as things change, Burma will become the kind of country that will be even more of a pleasure to visit than it is now.”
And it’s most definitely become a remarkable place to visit. As independent individual travellers, Selective Asia team-members have travelled to Burma on a number of occasions since 2002. Our founder has long aspired to offer clients the chance to experience what is undeniably one of the world’s great travel destinations.
So we’re very excited to finally be able to say “yes” - the time has arrived. We are dealing with non-government hotels, airlines and companies everywhere we can, although we do accept that this is not always possible, nor are we in a position to entirely prevent the Burmese government from earning revenue from tourism.
There is still a very long way to go, however we are perhaps at last starting to see a few initial cracks in what has been, and remains, a totally unaceptable level of human rights abuse for many millions of people. While it remains essential for travellers to stay as aware of the reasons to not visit Burma as they are of the benefits, it is nice, at long last, to be in the position to help people go there if they want to!
Politics in Burma
- Having co-operated with the British to escape Japanese occupation during the Second World War, Burma struggled to extract itself from British control.
- After a series of power struggles, paramilitaries assassinated key civilian political leaders in 1947. The military Chief of Staff finally seized full control in 1962 and severed all ties with the West.
- Also known as ‘the Generals’, the military has dominated the Burmese government and administrative affairs ever since. They appropriate a large % of the country’s income and invest very little of it into social development and wellbeing.
- In 2011, the military council was dissolved following a shaky election in 2010 and subsequent inauguration of Burma's civilian government.
- Speaking to foreign visitors in negative terms about the political situation can still get Burmese people into serious trouble, although they frequently do so nonetheless.
Aung San Suu Kyi
- Daughter of former Burmese leader and people's hero Aung San, who was assassinated in 1947 and is known as the architect of Burma’s independence from Britain.
- General Secretary of the National League for Democracy. The NLD is Burma’s main opposition party and won 81% of parliamentary seats in the 1990 general election, which had over 70% voter turnout, but the Generals refused to acknowledge the result and continued to rule themselves.
- Placed under house arrest shortly before the 19990 election. Remained under arrest, with a few brief periods of freedom, from July 1989 until her release in November 2010.
- Winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, the Rafto prize, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the International Simón Bolívar Prize, amongst a long list of international prizes for her contribution to human rights, freedom and democracy.
- Pleaded for an international boycott of Burma throughout the military rule. Her wishes were largely respected. This included a boycott of Burmese travel and tourism. The NLD finally lifted its opposition to small scale tourism in late 2010.