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Tourism in Burma.
>From:NBH03114@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Burmese Relief Center--Japan)
Due to transmission problems, this is being sent from another computer
three weeks after being written
Burmese Relief Center--Japan has learned from Howard H. Sargent
<hsargent@xxxxxxx> that Rusty Staff, President of Bolder Adventures, a
travel agent in Boulder, Colorado, and Joe Cummings, author of Lonely
Planet Travel Guides, are stating that we now encourage, or at least
approve of, tourism in Burma. This is not true. We cannot imagine how
Mr. Cummings interpreted anything that we have published or distributed
to arrive at that conclusion, and we certainly regret any
Mr. Cummings' error may have caused. Burmese Relief Center--Japan
stands firmly behind the NCGUB position boycotting tourism to Burma,
and we will not change our position until Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the
NLD inside the country, and Dr. Sein Win and the NCGUB outside the
country, declare otherwise.
Our fliers clearly call on tourists not to go to Burma until the country
free. To set the record straight, we would like to submit to net readers
our answer to Mr. Cummings and Mr. Staff, followed the two statements
which Mr. Sargent received at a travel presentation given in Boulder and
the text of our second flier as well as a poster produced by Southeast
Asia Information Network (SAIN), Chiang Mai, Thailand. Since we have
distributed this striking and unmistakably anti-tourism poster with our
organization listed as a contact, many people have assumed that we
produced it. We apologize for any misunderstanding. All credit for this
fine poster goes to SAIN.
What we have attempted to do here is to go through the arguments
presented in the fliers point by point, exposing their fallacies. To
Rusty Staff's listing of Joe Cummings credentials, including being a
Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand decades ago and a protestor of the
Vietnam war has no relevance to the appropriatness of visiting Burma in
Cummings argues that it is "politically correct" to travel to SLORC's
Burma. We must seriously doubt his claim of having "read most of the
reports published in English on human rights in Burma." Given the
tremendous volume of material involved, it seems most unlikely.
Furthermore, we cannot imagine what conflict he perceives between the
UN's findings and Amnesty International's. We wonder which NGOs and
"international government agencies" (sic) he is referring to. In actual
there is overwhelming agreement when it comes to Burma--all human
rights investigations and their subsequent reports, no matter who funded
them, are depressingly consistent in the picture they present of massive
human rights violations being committed by the SLORC army in every
part of the country, against every segment of the civilian
Again, we are puzzled by what Cummings might mean by "bias". Is he
implying that reports by Professor Yozo Yokota, the UN Human Rights
Rapporteur, and those from the International Labor Organization are
unreliable, biased, and untrustworthy? Are we to dismiss them in favor of
Cummings' own personal recommendations, observations, and
evaluations? Since he has produced a popular and profitable travel guide
to SLORC's Burma, how can we trust his "objectivity"?
"Though Burma is bad, China is much worse"; such reasoning does not
make Burma good. We are not concerned here with the merits of
American foreign policy or of tourism in China. The issue we are are
addressing is that of tourism to SLORC's Burma, and Cummings is
begging the question.
Nor is the method of succession to the throne in olden days relevant to
the issue of SLORC's Burma. Henry VIII's marital problems have nothing
to do with tourism in England today either.
A casual tourist can rarely see "behind the whitewash," and travel in
Burma is heavily restricted. Joe implies that most of the reports coming
out of Burma are out-dated because those reporting have not been to
Burma since 1988. On the other hand, many opposed to the SLORC
have spent a lot of time inside the country very recently. It would be
irresponsible to dismiss their detailed first-hand reports as inaccurate
biased. Many of us still travel extensively in the border areas where we
see for ourselves the horrors being perpetrated on the ethnic minorities,
and learn of the hardships being endured everywhere in Burma from
escaped porters and from students working for demoracy inside. After
six years, we now have an excellent network which provides us with up-
to-date information on Burma. BRC-J regularly receives material from
inside the country, and the authoritative word is, "now is not the time
travel to Burma."
The introduction of Burma as a "special case" because of currency
exchange requirements is a red herring. Even Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
herself is saying that this is not the time to invest. (Tourism is a
investment.) Those who rush in anyway are doing so for their own
benefit, without consideration for the people of Burma
Messrs. Cummings and Staff may naively believe that many good-hearted
Burmse are making a living from tourism, but the truth is otherwise.
Ordinary citizens are being forced out of their homes to make way for big
tourist hotels. Ordinary Burmese are being forced to labor for the army
on tourism projects without pay, food or medical care. The so-called
"liberalization of the economy" is reducing ordinary Burmese to a nation
of waiters, manual labors, and prostitutes. Most of the "private"
one sees are, in reality, military-backed. The SLORC takes good care of
its own, and that includes its extended family at the expense of ordinary
Given the pervasive nature of SLORC's military intelligence apparatus,
the notion of "an exchange of ideas between people on a grass-roots
level" is absurd. It appears irresponsible to blithly discuss groups of
western tourists interacting with "local people who have no other window
whatsoever to the outside world." An "open and frank dialog" might be
very entertaining for the visitor, but deadly perilous for the local
observed by MI agents even from a distance. To anyone familiar with the
Burmese situation, it is ludicrous to suppose that local people need
tourists before "they can develop an understanding of their circumstances
in a global context." (Almost every Burmese listens to BBC and VOA
broadcasts in Burmese.) As for the tourists, since they are always on
move, there is little likelihood of them seeing the tragic "impact of the
government's policies on the average citizen."
VISIT MYANMAR YEAR 1996
Visit Myanmar, a country in chains: Thousands of people are being
enslaved to work in "development projects" by State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC). These include the "Visit Myanmar Year
1996"- the largest campaign by the military dictators. Don't let your
tourist dollars support slavery in Burma. Boycott the "Visit Myanmar
ATTENTION, TRAVELERS TO MYANMAR !!
An Announcement from the Ministry of Hotels & Tourism: Visiting
Myanmar is not bad for your health! We give the people all the shots they
need! <Picture of a Burmese soldier pointing his rifle at the
SLORC wants to cure the Burmese people of a fever that threatens the
very life of the regime: DEMOCRACY. By infusing government coffers
with hard currency, travelers provide life support to the dictators and
help send Burmese civilians to the morgue. Even if you're not worried
about the well-being of the Burmese people, consider your own health.
Here's what you can expect in SLORC's Myanmar:
FEVER, CHILLS, AND OTHER THRILLS: Malaria is endemic
throughout Burma. Mosquitoes also carry potentially fatal dengue, or
hemorrhagic fever. Tourists must also watch out for TB, tetanus, typhoid,
cholera, hepatitis, and a host of other tropical diseases.
DON'T PET THAT POOCH: Remember--rabies vaccine is unavailable in
AIDS, A DEADLY SOUVENIR: According to the World Health
Organization, 400,000 people, or 1% of Burma's population, have
contracted HIV, and Burma has one of the fastest growing rates of
infection in all of Asia. Should you need a transfusion, there is no
supply of blood, and you can't count on any syringe being sterile.
NO DOCTORS IN THE HOUSE: There is only one doctor for every
12,500 people. Most Burmese doctors have gone abroad. The brain
drain is so bad, in fact, that SLORC recently decreed that new doctors
must stay in the country for three years after finishing medical
HOSPITALS IN NAME ONLY: Hospitals may have beds, but they have
no medicine and virtually no equipment. You can check into a Burmese
hospital, but you might not check out.
BAD WATER, BAD MEDICINE: Tap water can be lethal, and "bottled
water" is often taken from the tap. Medicine smuggled from China or
Thailand is usually purchased on the black market. Beware of fakes;
watch out for expired drugs.
MYANMAR: YOU'RE SICK TO GO THERE, AND YOU'LL BE
SICKER WHEN YOU LEAVE.
For more information contact: Burmese Relief Center--Japan,
266-27 Ozuku-cho, Kashihara, Nara 634, Japan Tel (07442) 2-8236