Myanmar Travel Guide

So much has changed in Myanmar in recent years. It’s a country with a troubled and oppressed past, and we believe in sharing as much information as we can on the reality of the countries we operate in – past, present, and what the future might look like.

We urge clients to decide for themselves, having read the facts about Myanmar’s situation & the most recent recommendations made by the Burmese National League for Democracy (NLD) & its leader, Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

The country has come a long way and is currently re-emerging onto the global scene after 50 years in isolation. Up until relatively recently, there was a big question mark over whether it was right to even travel to Myanmar, and until mid-2010 our answer was ‘no’. Although it’s long been one of the planet’s most tempting travel destinations, Myanmar has also been one of the most politically corrupt & unjust nations in recent history.

A gradual liberalisation process has been taking place since 2010, and in 2011 reforms were introduced by the government, with strict censorship controls being lifted and privately owned papers allowed to publish for the first time. The military junta also handed over power to the first civilian government, and in 2012 Myanmar held their first (partly) free and democratic elections.

Subsequently, international sanctions were lifted, which lead to a huge influx in visitors to Myanmar, and there has been significant change since that time – in infrastructure and the number of hotels. To a certain extent, the experience has changed too. Up until 2010, it cost upwards of USD 2000 for a mobile sim card, and there were no ATMs; both of these things are now commonly found throughout the country.

We have been supporting travel to Myanmar since this time, and have focused on dealing with non-government-owned 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 Myanmar government from earning revenue from tourism.

The country still has some way to go - Myanmar still has to resolve certain human rights issues, and internal conflicts take place is some areas, which are off limits to visitors. While it remains essential for travellers to stay as aware of any reasons not to visit Myanmar 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!

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The facts

  • 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 Myanmar  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 Myanmar's civilian government.
  • The Aung San Suu Kyi–led National League for Democracy came to power in Myanmar during the historic general election of November 2015, and the country is embracing change.
  • 2013 saw the EU lift sanctions against Myanmar and the US followed in 2016 – which left some surprised.
  • Though people are more open than in the past when discussing politics, some guardedness remains; do not instigate political conversations.

Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Daughter of former Myanma 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 Myanmar’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 1990 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 travel and tourism in Myanmar. The NLD finally lifted its opposition to small scale tourism in late 2010.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi became First State Counsellor of Myanmar on 6th April 2016, after the NLD won a landslide victory in the 2015 General Election - the first openly contested general election since 1990.  The NLD won absolute majority, but a last-minute change in the constitution prevented Suu Kyi was unable to become president, so a new role similar to Prime Minister was created for her.

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