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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 
Date:July 21,1995 
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 
kind of 
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."      
(SAIN Poster)  
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 
Year 1996."   
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.   
For  more information contact:  Burmese Relief Center--Japan,  
266-27 Ozuku-cho, Kashihara, Nara 634, Japan Tel  (07442) 2-8236