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An update from Evaneos

Be responsible when visiting Burma; do not feed the junta!

A trip to Burma constitutes a real test of conscience: there is nowhere near full respect for human rights in the country and many institutions are still controlled by the army. However, now that Burma is marching towards yet greater freedom and increased respect for such rights, tourism can serve as a source of economic development, enabling poverty to be tackled and providing a way to preserve both cultural and natural resources. Visiting Burma can therefore be a way of getting involved and making a genuine contribution. You just need to be aware of the issues before visiting the country. 

Who do you deal with in Burma?

A few words need to be said about the airlines, as the picture isn't exactly a rosy one! Myanmar Airways, the national airline, has long been blacklisted, whereas some of the other airlines, such as Air Bagan, Air Mandalay and Yangon Airways, though private are actually owned by individuals close to the regime Trains and boat services are also linked to the regime. It is better, therefore, to use local bus services.

Once in the country, be careful to avoid any businesses affiliated with Myanmar Travel & Tour, a tourism company controlled by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. Your money will go directly into the government's pockets if you deal with any of these! They should be avoided like the plague. Instead, try to use little local shops and businesses and other local street vendors.

You can use the Info Birmanie website to help you sort the wheat from the chaff. In particular, it maintains a list of hotels to boycott.

Burma off the beaten track

There are many cultural sites in Burma that are still little known and visited. Though you don't need to deprive yourself of the experience of visiting the best known sites, do try to always bear in mind that the entrance fees requested constitute official taxes, which also help to swell the coffers of the dictatorship.

Furthermore, it's by heading for the areas less well visited, the out-of-the-way places, that you'll undoubtedly get to experience your best encounters with the multicultural Burmese population.

The Burmese population is essentially composed of a large Bamar majority, to which is added a multitude of ethnic groups making up a colorful patchwork of cultures: Shan, Karen, Karenni, Mon, Kachin, Chin, Rakhine together with communities of Hindus, Bengalis, Chinese, Nepalese and others. Imagine the range of diversity you can experience if you dare to explore further afield.

Further information about responsible tourism in Burma:

Laetitia Santos
34 contributions
Updated 28 May 2015
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