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Selected articles on tourism from "
- Subject: Selected articles on tourism from "
- From: brelief@xxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 24 Nov 1995 06:22:00
Subject: Selected articles on tourism from "New Frontiers"
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Selected Articles from NEW FRONTIERS
SWISS FEDERATION OF TRAVEL AGENCIES
IGNORE VISIT BURMA YEAR
Thanks to the successful lobbying by human rights advocates
the Swiss Federation of Travel Agencies (SFTA) recommends
that its members should refrain from expanding travel to Burma
and ignore Visit Myanmar [Burma] Year. The following is the
English translation of a statement by the SFTA Subject Section
for Environment and Social Affairs (SFTA publication:
August/September 1995, No. 8/9):
In 1996, Burma shall be opened during 'Visit Myanmar
[Burma] Year' to large international tourist inflows.
According to information of the Working Group Tourism and
Development in Basel, for example, 120,000 to 150,000 people
were in prospect of this event forcefully conscripted last year for
railway construction in the South of the country.
According to information of Amnesty International, political
prisoners and minors are also used for works in tourism projects
under most difficult conditions.
Human rights violations of this kind, which are directly related
to tourism, must be a concern for our industry.
In addition. safety and health risks for travellers in Burma are
manifold. The infrastructure, established in haste and with
forced labour, will probably hardly meet the safety needs of our
customers. Our customers can already imperil themselves and
local people simply by communicating with each other, as in
Burma, contact with foreigners alone can be considered as
The recent release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu
Kyi is in the eyes of most observers an attempt of image
improvement. The disregard of fundamental human rights and
the critical safety situation continue to exist.
The Subject Section for Environment and Social Affairs of the
SFTA therefore recommends that its members relinquish plans
for special expansion of travel to Burma and ignore Visit
Myanmar [Burma] Year. (Beat Obrist, Board Member)
*** A Coalition of Swiss NGOs has been formed to campaign
and lobby in relation to Visit Burma Year. It includes
representatives of Amnesty International Switzerland,
Pfaffhausen, the Society for Threatened Peoples, Bern; Swiss
Aid, Bern; the Swiss - Burmese Association, Geneva; the
Women Information Centre (FIZ), Zurich; and the Working
Group Tourism and Development (AKTE), Basel.
BURMA: HAVEN OF PEACE, ASSURE SLORC MEN
[BP:10.10.1995; 17.10.1995; TN: 17.10.1995; 20.10.1995;
23.10.1995; BI: Sept. 1995]
LEADERS of Burma's State Law and Order Restoration
Council (SLORC) are increasingly heading abroad in search of
a better image, foreign allies and foreign investment. At the
50th session of the United Nations General Assembly on 3
October, Foreign Minister U Ohn Gyaw claimed Burma had
made great strides in getting rid of insurgents and implementing
reforms. He said "in Myanmar, peace reigns as never before
and momentum for positive change continues."
A few days later, Brig, Gen. Tin Aye, Deputy Minister of
Hotels and Tourism, kicked off a week - long tourism drive in
Singapore ahead of 'Visit Burma Year' and told prospective
investors in the travel industry that his country was one of the
most peaceful in the world. Slamming the international press
for allegedly scaring away businessmen and tourists, he said:
"Myanmar is not at all what they have been hearing on the air...
It is absolutely safe and enjoyable to travel in Myanmar."
Meanwhile, in Burma itself not only political freedoms have
been suppressed. Most people are also experiencing a drastic
decline of their economic positions. Inflation, stagnant
government wages, and the lack of spending on public services
has severely affected the standards of living.
Capitalism is now the name of the game, and a few people are
actually getting rich. Khin Shwe, for example, who only earned
US$50 a month as an engineer, is now making millions from
hotels, construction deals and overseas trading. Or Serge Pun,
who has interests in the credit cards business, shopping centres
and laundries, now wants to build golf courses and Hawaii Ice
However, these first wealthy entrepreneurs are towering above
an impoverished land where the gap between the rich and the
poor is rapidly rising. For the vast majority of the population. a
prime concern is inflation and especially the exploding price of
rice. Since the beginning of the year, one pyi (about 1.5 kg) of
rice has risen from 25 kyats to 86 kyats putting it out of range
for even most middle class Burmese. Among the worst affected
are government employees who have fixed salaries between 650
kyats and 2,500 kyats (US$6 to 25). They are left exposed not
only to meagre diets but taxes and high prices for basic
Education and health care have also been woefully neglected.
Aung San Suu Kyi recently pointed out that what the country
needs are new schools and hospitals, not luxury hotels, thereby
subtly criticizing SLORC's frenzied tourism promotion at the
cost of public services. According to the United Nations, three
out of four children do not complete primary school; 40% of
children under three years suffer from malnutrition; two out of
three people drink unsafe water; and only 2% have access to
Forced labour and forced relocations are causing additional
sufferings. People in the countryside and ethnic groups in
particular are most affected by these brutal measures of the
SLORC. Recently, thousands of Karen in the Taungoo, Papun,
Pa-an and Thaton areas have been uprooted from their villages
and left homeless in the jungle, where they are either starving or
facing serious malnutrition. According to aid workers, at least
10,000 have fled their homes since July of this year following
harassment by the Burmese army and renegade Karen forces.
The troops marched through villages, looting and burning
homes, barns and rice fields. In Taungoo, 21 villages were
destroyed and about 2,700 people took refuge in the jungle, in
Mudraw 27 villages were raided and burned, and 4,250 people
displaced. In Bilin, 12 villages were set ablaze and 2,700
people fled. Villagers from Mudraw also complained about the
army's forced conscription of locals, including schoolchildren,
Is this the 'peaceful' and 'enjoyable country the SLORC wants to
present to international tourists during "visit Burma Year
"VISIT BURMA YEAR" PREPARATIONS IN TAVOY
[KNU: July 1995] - ACCORDING to a report of the Karen
National Union (KNU) entitled 'The Rape of the Rural Poor,
SLORC hopes that in future, tourists will pour into the coastal
area around Tavoy in large numbers. The completion of the Ye
- Tavoy railway section has been a priority for the authorities.
Reports of forced labour and other human rights violations in
connection with railway construction are widely known. But
SLORC has lately changed its policy. Instead of calling
villagers for labour, every family in the whole district must now
pay 500 kyats every month. Those who fail to contribute are
punished with 15 days of unpaid labour. In addition, SLORC
officials at all ranks regularly demand labourers for their own
Works related to tourism around Tavoy include cleaning and
maintenance of the Tavoy airport, golf course, and public areas
in the city -- streets, government buildings compounds, parks,
etc. Last year, villagers had to contribute labour in the
following tourism projects: the establishment of a statue of
Bogyoke Aung San, a long pavement along the river bank and
on top of a dam, a golf course, as well as cosmetic works at the
airport, the jetty and a divisional athletic ground.
BORDER REOPENING EXPECTED SOON
[TN: 7.10.1995] - The Rangoon regime has upgraded the
northeastern border town of Tachilek to provincial status.
Authorities have also accelerated the reconstruction of Tha
Duea Bridge which links Tachilek with Kengtung, the largest
town in southeastern Shan State. The bridge was destroyed
early this year by Khun Sa's Mong Thai Army (MTA). In
addition, there are efforts to complete renovations at
government offices in Kengtung, seat of the former Shan
principalities, to prepare for 'Visit Burma Year' in 1996.
All these ongoing activities, taking place under directives from
Rangoon, have prompted speculation that Burmese authorities
will soon reopen the border at Tachilek.
Rangoon reportedly sealed off the frontier because of MTA
successes in raiding Tachilek and attacking Burmese military
installations and other facilities in Shan State, demoralizing
both military forces and citizens. Local people, who regularly
commute between Tachilek and Kengtung, have been ordered
not to leak information about Burmese activities in the area on
pain of severe punishment.
New Frontiers is prepared by Tourism Investigation and
Fax: (66-2) 691-0714