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New Frontiers, on tourism and relat (r)

Subject: Re: New Frontiers, on tourism and related issues in Burma

"Visit Burma, when there is democracy and the people are free"
A coalition of Swiss NGOs (composed of Arbeitsgemeinschaft gegen Kinder-
prostitution, Arbeitskreis Tourismus & Entwicklung, Association Suisse-
Birmanie, Brot fuer alle, FIZ-Fraueninformationszentrum Dritte Welt, 
Gesellschaft fuer bedrohte Voelker, SEK-Arbeitsgruppe Menschenrechte) 
has sponspored and organised a media conference on Burma's tourist-year-
1996 in Zuerich/Switzerland on Jan.23,1996. Two main speakers were 
invited to the conference, namely Mr. Claude Schauli from Association 
Swiss-Burma/Geneva and U Nwe Aung from NCGUB-Germany. The conference was 
attended by varieties of branches such as Swiss and international press-
agencies, radio and televisions, tourist and traveling agencies, Swiss 
tourism federation, human rights groups, NGOs, Burmese community in 
Switzerland and individuals.
After introducing the speakers to the conference public, Christine Pluess 
from the Working Group Tourism and Development/Basel distributed news 
packages and explained the contents to the participants. The floor was 
then given to U Nwe Aung.
U Nwe Aung, after a brief introduction on historical background, current 
situation and worldwide campaign on negative tourism in Burma, explained 
the different impacts of tourism in Burma, for examples, on forced and 
slave labour, on forced relocation, on forced cosmetic make-up (forced 
beautification), on sex industry (child- and forced prostitution), on 
environment, on ethnicity, on culture, on national economy and on politics.
The conference participants were impressed by an example given in his talk:
'It is well-known that every tourist visiting Burma is required(compulsory)
to change at least 300 US$ officially, with which the SLORC can buy at least
3000 bullets. In order to transport these bullets to the frontier areas, 
where most ethnic nationalities are earning their living, the SLORC usually
uses forced labourers, for example in this case, 2 male porters oe 3 female
porters, or 4 children or 4 aged persons for the duration of about 2-3 weeks
on foot through deep jungles and high mountains. Average 30% of the 
porters usually 'disappeared' due to exhaustion, malnutrition, hunger, 
sickness(malaria), accidents, gang-rape, escape, suicide, murder, etc. 
So, during the fighting for instance, if one is supposed to be hit after 
firing every 30 rounds, 100 innocent persons could be killed or wounded 
with the dollars contributed to the SLORC by one tourist.'
U Nwe Aung, in his conclusion, requested to those who are thinking of 
visiting Burma at this moment to please reconsider and if possible to 
postphone to an appropriate period, giving following reasons:
# Visiting Burma now is supporting the SLORC's drive to its tourist-year.
# Supporting the tourist-year is aslo helping the SLORC generals firstly, 
  to become multimillionaires in one of the poorest countries and secondly
  to get their desired 'legitimacy'.
# Dollars brought into Burma through tourism and put into the bloody hands
  of SLORC are being used to sustain the military budget, which is used 
  to kill its own people.
# Tourists visiting Burma will be using the railways, roads, airports, 
  harbours, etc. built by blood, sweat and lives of thousands of forced 
  labourers, and will be visiting culture sites and palaces from which 
  local people have been forcibly relocated.
# Tourists will be having little chance to have contact with the local 
  people, and most of them who have talked to the foreigners are usually
  interrogated or arrested by the military agents.
# Tourists are simply taking too much risk to their safety and health 
  after spending a considerable amount of money, which goes to the benefit
  of the SLORC generals.
Claude Schauli from the Association Swiss-Birmanie mentioned the most 
massive and tragic human rights abuses in Burma with regards to the 
SLORC's tourist-year 1996. He described the miserable conditions of the 
prisons, in which thousands of political prisoners are still held. Due to 
the repressions of the SLORC, millions of people have to flee to the 
neighbouring countries like Thailand, Bangladesh, India, China, and most 
of them are ethnic minorities. More than one million people are forced 
relocated to the countrysides and are forced to work in constructing roads,
railways, etc, for the foreign visitors, which can be compared with the 
Red Khmer rule in Cambodia.
After explaining the situation of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi 
and her NLD party, Claude Schauli said that SLORC is now trying to become 
a member of the ASEAN, but there is a lack of foreign exchange, so that 
the promotion of tourist-year and foreign investments become a 
significant role. The Asian countries Thailand, Singapore and Japan are 
now leading in investment, followed by some European countries like 
France and Great Britain. Only the USA, followed by a couple of countries 
strongly restrict its investment and economic policy towards the military 
regime and related with the democratization process.
A communique was approved at the media conference by the Swiss 
NGO-coalition, in which the appeal of the democratic opposition of Burma 
" Visit us only, when we are free" and the democratic movement of Burma 
have been fully supported. The Swiss NGO coalition appealed to the Swiss 
tourists not to visit Burma now without considering the real situation. 
The coalition requested also to the tourists and traveling agencies to 
follow the recommendation made by the Swiss tourism federation not to 
advertise and promote SLORC's tourist-year in Burma. The Swiss economic 
enterprises should respect to the recommendation of Aung San Suu Kyi not 
to rush the investment in Burma. The coalition expected that the Swiss 
government and the authorities concerned should undertake all possible 
means in realising the democratisation in Burma, in supporting the 
democratic forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi and in recognising the will of 
the democratic opposition with regards to the cooperation with the UN 
Human Rights Commission, the World Bank and the International monetary fund.
 A similar conference has also been held in Geneva/Switzerland on Jan. 31
organised by the Association Swiss-Birmanie. The main speakers invited 
were U Maung Maung Yan from Association France-Birmanie/Paris, Salai 
Thawm Hlei Mang from Chin National Front (CNF)/Basel and Claude Schauli from
Association Swiss-Birmanie/Geneva. The media conference in Geneva covered 
the French speaking parts of the southern Switzerland and France, whereas 
the conference in Zuerich covered the German speaking parts of the northern
Switzerland as well as Germany. According to the statistics Germany, 
Switzerland and France belong to the European countries, from which most 
of the tourists are coming.
 There will be an International Tourism Borse (ITB) in Berlin/Germany in 
the middle of March, and the Burma Bureau/Germany will together with the 
other European working groups lobby intensively not to promote the SLORC 
tourist-year 1996.
The Burma Bureau / Germany
Feb. o4, 1996.  

On 3 Feb 1996 brelief@xxxxxxx wrote:

> From: brelief@xxxxxxx (Ken and Visakha Kawasaki)
> Subject: New Frontiers, on tourism and related issues in Burma
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> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> --=====================_823403220==_
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> From:  New Frontiers 
> January, 1996
> (Prepared by Tourism Investigation and Monitoring Team
> Published by TERRA -- E-mail: TERRAPER@xxxxxxxxxx
> (Golden Myanmar: Vol 2, No. 4, 1995) The following are
> excerpts of articles of the Golden Myanmar Quarterly
> Magazine, shedding light on the Burmese government's official
> tourism promotion:
> Tourism Resources: With its cultural heritage and civilization,
> Myanmar is a cultural destination. Myanmar's unspoilt natural
> beauty associated with different types of flora and fauna can
> play a vital role for the development of the tourism industry.
> Ancient cities of Bagan, Hantharwady, Inwa, etc. show how
> well the civilization of Myanmar prospered centuries ago.
> Panoramic view of the snow capped mountain ranges in the
> North as well as the leg - rowers at the Inlay Lake and miles of
> unspoilt eye catching beaches shall always be the unforgettable
> memories for visitors from abroad.
> All sorts of preparations have been made for  Visit Myanmar
> Year 1996'. At present, there are 31 on  going hotel projects
> with the total investment of US$604 million, ranking second
> after the energy sector.  Hotel projects are mostly located in
> Yangon. Because of the diverse attractions, there is a growing
> need for international class hotels in major tourist sites like
> Mandalay, Bagan, Inlay and Ngapali. There are also many
> newly opened areas like Mawlamyine, Myitkyina, Kengtung,
> Pyay, where no hotels of international standards are available.
> Many investment opportunities are also available for the
> development of golf courses, beach resorts, tourist villages,
> amusement parks, recreation centres, service apartments,
> condominiums and office complexes.
> Focus on Eco-tourism: "Myanmar, rich in natural resources,
> has over 50 per cent of the total area still covered with forests.
> The Forestry Ministry has selected a number of sites for eco
> tourism. One of those sites is along the Bago Yoma hump road
> across natural teak forests. At a time when commercially
> exploitable natural teak forests have virtually disappeared in
> neighbouring countries, the natural teak forests astride the
> Bago Yoma hump road may even be regarded as the last
> foothold."
> Foreign Investment: "Realizing the significance of foreign
> investment for economic (and tourism) development, the
> government issued the Foreign Investment Law and the
> Procedures relating to that Law in 1988. The policy objectives
> underlying foreign investment are for the promotion and
> expansion of exports, exploitation of natural resources which
> require heavy investment, acquisition of high technology,
> assisting production and services involving large capital,
> opening up of more employment opportunities, ...  and regional
> development.
> The Law provides attractive tax incentives. There is an
> exemption from payment of duties for the import of plant and
> machineries, and also tax holiday for three years, which is
> extendable. Foreign investors are permitted to lease land and
> immovable property at reasonable rates from the government.
> The repatriation of capital and profit is also allowed. The Law
> also guarantees that foreign investments made ... shall not be
> {AWPNUC - N: Dec. 1995)  - CULTURAL isolationism
> under a military dictatorship can have its benefits: for a quarter
> of century, from 1962 to 1988, the nominally socialist regime
> of Ne Win effectively froze the economy in Burma while
> curtailing all movement and information flow in and out of the
> country. During that time, there was virtually no national or
> private funds to spend on urban modernization. As a result, the
> British colonial city of Rangoon and older royal capital of
> Mandalay remained largely untouched, so that these cities now
> arguably represent the two of the greatest treasure troves of
> late 19th century and early 20th century' architecture in
> Southeast Asia.
> After the 1988 political turmoil, the newly formed SLORC
> proclaimed a transitional market economy, so as to invite
> direct foreign investment, and next October is to launch 'Visit
> Myanmar Year 1996 - 97' - a major campaign modelled on
> other Southeast Asian tourist drives.
> In keeping with the Visit Year objective to attract 500,000
> visitors, over 20 new  international class hotels, shopping
> centres and office towers are in the works around Rangoon,
> overturning the zoning precedent that no high rise structure
> "look down" on the town - centre Buddhist spire of Sule
> Pagoda, and putting considerable strain on electricity and
> water supplies.
> More alarming, however, is the recent decree that slates some
> 250 buildings to be 'beautified" or replaced. Typically,
> residents are given two weeks to implement improvements or
> chisel off "shabby" facades. Buildings failing to comply may
> be razed and site - use then sold (state land - holding statutes
> still reflect socialist times). Construction contractors from
> Singapore, Thailand, Macao and Japan are given no stylistic
> directives by which to preserve the existing urban continuity.
> Mandalay to the north is likewise falling ill of rush military
> mobilization development schemes. Streets have been widened
> by bulldozing houses, sending hundreds of homeless to "new
> towns". Major heritage sites such as the Royal Palace and
> Atumashi Temple are being hurriedly "reconstructed" in
> reinforced concrete in time for the influx of tourists. And
> again, new hotels are being put up in numbers, here mostly by
> and for Yunnan Chinese. Aesthetic and cultural considerations
> tend to be as questionable as building safety.
> The SLORC generals, who posit themselves both as the
> guardians of tradition "We do not want another Bangkok"  and
> patrons of innovation -- "We want a proud modern city" - are
> all too eager to tear down. Tragically, Burma's long isolation
> precludes awareness that tourists and other interests might
> actually pay to see some old neighbourhoods kept.
> (TN: 15.12.95; BP: 20.12.95) - On 14 December, students
> from Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal and Thailand
> joined their colleagues from Burma to protest the participation
> of the Rangoon regime in the Fifth ASEAN Summit with
> leaders of all 10 Southeast Asian nations. The rally took place
> in front of the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel in Bangkok, the
> venue of the meeting.
> The students also called for a boycott of trade, investment and
> tourism in Burma until the State Law and Order Restoration
> Council (SLORC) hands over power to democratic forces.
> "Over 3,000 political prisoners remain in prison and human
> rights abuses continue at a regular basis. ASEAN must
> consider economic, arms and tourism sanctions against the
> (Burmese) dictatorship," said their statement.
> At a following meeting, attended by 26 NGO representatives
> from 12 countries and organized by the Thai Action
> Committee for Democracy in Burma and the Asian Cultural
> Forum on Development (ACFOD). participants said Burma's
> 1996 tourism drive should be boycotted because preparations
> for it had caused its people great hardship.
> The Asia - Pacific Consortium on Burma appealed particularly
> to tourists from ASEAN countries to shun Visit Myanmar
> (Burma) Year 1996. Preparations for this tourism campaign
> had caused "forced relocations, forced labour and a disruption
> of essential services," the consortium said. The ruling SLORC
> aimed to reap foreign exchange from at least 500,000 tourists
> it hopes to attract. A considerable amount of foreign direct
> investment has gone into the hotel industry and related
> services.
> The consortium pointed out that multinational investment
> continued "regardless of gross human rights abuses",
> particularly against workers, unions, women, children and
> indigenous peoples. It concluded that ASEAN's "constructive
> engagement" policy with Burma "benefits only SLORC" and
> urged the grouping to take appropriate measures" to support
> human rights in Burma.
>  = = = = = = =
> New Frontiers
> December, 1995
> (TN: 3.11.1995; 25.11.1995; Al: Nov. 1995) - The Burmese
> military regime is risking a backlash of bad publicity by
> rushing tourism promotion before the country is ready. As this
> once isolated nation is ambitious to complete the final
> preparations for  Visit Burma Year 1996', doubts have risen as
> to whether the undeveloped infrastructure will be able to cope
> with the expected influx of visitors.
> If  Rangoon's predictions of a 20% increase in visitors is
> correct, approximately 300,000 tourists will descend on the
> country, prompting concern among industry insiders that
> shortages of hotel space and suitable transportation may affect
> the viability of the long term market.
> An increase in negative press is also expected as people pay
> overpriced rates for substandard hotel rooms. This could result
> in a tourism backlash, with one industry source putting it,
> "1988 might have  been a more auspicious choice." A Thai
> businessman complained: "Not only are hotel costs very high,
> but also the service is still very poor. Many visitors, who have
> made room reservations, were turned away because some VIPs
> showed up and wanted rooms ... VIP guests usually walk in
> without prior booking. Such guests often cite security concerns
> for having not made reservations.
> Even with unprecedented hotel construction underway in
> Rangoon, only an additional 1,500 beds will be available for
> 1996. The majority will not be fully completed until 1997 -
> 98. The situation upcountry is even less appealing as one
> travel agent explained: "Except for the Novotel that opens in
> mid - 1996, there isn't any hotel in Mandalay that could reach
> the word 'international standard'. There is nothing you could
> start a big tour with, there's just nothing there."
> As for Burma's much publicized 4,000 kms of pristine
> coastline and several hundred tropical islands, as of present,
> only three islands are open to tourists, all serviced by one 400 -
> room hotel.
> Transport is another obstacle, according to insiders of the
> tourism industry, because travel from one city to another is still
> inconvenient and time - consuming. Though the government
> has made great strides in trying to upgrade the country's
> transportation system, critics continue to point out that much
> of the new infrastructure - airports, roads and railways - is
> being build using forced labour.
> New flight terminals are under construction at the major
> tourist gateways of Rangoon, Mandalay, Heho and Pagan, but
> all are not due for completion until 1997. A new train station
> is being built in Mandalay, and though a sign depicts it as a
>  Visit Myanmar 1996' project, it will not be completed until
> 1997. With the cash - strapped state government unable to
> invest in more rolling stock, no sleepers are available for the
> 18 - hour ride from Rangoon to Mandalay.
> The rush to get into tourism business has resulted in a plethora
> of businesses offering substandard services. Even basic
> necessities such as tour vans and English - speaking guides are
> hard to find. The unrestricted competition has also led to all
> out brawls between competing tour companies at the airport
> and a rise in unscrupulous business tactics such as taxi drivers
> delaying their arrivals to the train station until the last train to
> Mandalay has departed and then offering their services as tour
> guides.
> Under a master plan to be submitted to UNESCO for parts of
> Pagan to be listed as a World Heritage site, Zone 3 will be
> listed as a two -  part economic zone. The first division near the
> international airport will be available to Burmese nationals
> only, the second, located 9 kms south of the ancient city wall,
> will be for foreign investment. With both areas at present little
> more than dusty plains, it will take three to five years to
> develop the sites.
> General Kyaw Ba, the Minister for Hotels and Tourism, also
> does not seem to be well prepared to cope with large - scale
> tourism. Forty years in the infantry have left their mark on the
> 60 - year - old military man. He admitted: "I had no
> background for this job when my ministry was created in
> 1992. 1 came from Kachin State, where I was the regional
> commander for eight years."
> Kyaw Ba's ministry office looks like a bunker. Heavily armed
> recruits guard the door, though the only apparent threat to life
> comes from cars careening around nearby Sule Pagoda. Kyaw
> Ba may be the only tourism minister in Asia whose
> appointments secretary wears camouflage fatigues, opens mail
> with a bayonet and complements his steno pad with a revolver
> and concussion grenades.
> (BP: 16.11.1995; TN: 1.11.1995; 28.11.1995) - A
> BILATERAL agreement on tourism between Thailand and
> Burma should result in benefits for both sides, according to
> Pradech Phayakvichien, a top official of the Tourism
> Authority of Thailand (TAT).
> During a briefing with Burmese Deputy Minister Vice -
> Admiral Maung Maung Khin in Bangkok, Pradech told him if
> an agreement was reached, Thailand could help Burma plan
> and market its tourism industry and train industry personnel.
> In 1994, Thai investment projects in Burma,  among them
> several tourism ventures, ranked fifth after British, French,
> Singaporean and United States deals, with a total investment of
> US$264 million.
> The Andaman Club Co. Ltd., an affiliate of the Thai Ves
> Group investing in a casino - cum - golf resort on Thahtay
> Kyun Island in southern Burma, now plans to set up s joint
> marketing promotion with Bangkok Airways Co. to attract
> foreign tourists from other destinations in Thailand.
> With a 30 year land concession for the 1,800 acre island from
> the Burmese government, the company wants to make the
> resort the centre of marine tourism destinations on nearby
> islands of both Burma and Thailand, said the company's
> president Vikrom Aysiri. From a private pier in Ranong, the
> resort's speed boats and a yacht take guests to the island within
> 10 - 15 minutes. While hotel facilities are already operating,
> the 18 - hole golf course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, will be
> completed in the next two years.
> [BI: Nov. 1995; TN: 30.11.1995] - ACCORDING to a recent
> report of the Thailand-based NGO Images Asia:
> ~ Forest cover in Burma has decreased from 80)% to less than
> 20%.
> ~  In 1991, Burma had the third highest rate of deforestation in
> the world (8,000  sq kms a year). After Brazil and Indonesia.
> ~  Most logging occurs in areas inhabited by indigenous
> peoples and is carried out by foreign companies who pay
> concession rights directly to the Myanmar Timber Enterprise.
> In ethnic areas along the borders, logging also serves as an
> effective means of strategic defoliation.
> ~   Raw logs are exported via land routes to China, Thailand
> and India.
> ~   Forest destruction as a result of shrimp farming, and oil
> exploitation in Arakan State and SLORC - run rubber and
> eucalyptus plantations on the Tenasserim coast is also
> rampant.
> ~  In addition, forests are increasingly threatened by other
> mega development projects such as road construction,
> pipelines, dams, and onshore oil exploitation.
>  ~  The devastating environmental impacts are droughts and
> water supply shortages, rainy season flooding, soil erosion,
> siltation of surface waters, as well as destruction and
> disruption of wildlife habitats
> Acknowledging the serious environmental problems in her
> country, Daw Yin Yin Lay, Burma's representative to the Asia 
> - Pacific Ministerial Conference on Environment and
> Development, recently held in Bangkok, said her first priority
> was to see environmental impact assessments (EIAs) become
> mandatory for all major development projects.  "Foreign
> investors sometimes bring in their own consultants to do
> EIAs," she said. "They come and consult with us, but we have
> no authority over the projects."
> Yin Yin Lay is a member of Burma's Commission for
> Environmental Affairs (NCEA) and serves as the deputy
> director of the commission's secretariat. "Actually, our office is
> run by the Foreign Affairs Ministry with a budget from the
> Prime Minister's Office," she said. Asked how big her budget
> was, she simply laughed.
> While a national environment policy was adopted last year,
> Burma has not yet an environmental law and needs technical
> assistance to draft one. Other laws related to the environment
> have passed, including the Forestry Act of 1992 and the
> Protection of Wildlife, Wild Plants and Natural Areas Act of
> 1994. However, most of the laws were quite old and outdated,
> Yin Yin Lay said.
> "Myanmar (Burma) is promoting investment, so we need a
> good monitoring system. There should be a regulation for
> EIAs, but I don't know when it will come. We will have to
> push for it," she said.
> (WT: 2.12.1995) - EXILED dissidents and groups opposed to
> Burma's military dictatorship have launched a  Boycott Visit
> Myanmar (Burma) Year' campaign.
> The London - based Burma Action Group (BAG) has
> produced an alternative guide to the country. Instead of
> illustrating tourist attractions, it highlights places such as the
> site where students were massacred in 1988 by the military;
> the prison holding political prisoners; and the home of
> opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. BAG is also lobbying
> tour operators that feature holidays in Burma.
> The campaign's launch comes against the background of
> increasing tension between the State Law and Order
> Restoration Council (SLORC) and the National League for
> Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi; the NLD
> recently walked out of the SLORC's showpiece convention
> which has been dismissed as manipulated and undemocratic.
> The ruling generals in Burma hope that images of an unsullied
> and peaceful land will attract hordes of dollar - toting visitors
> next year. However, opponents to the regime are telling
> potential visitors that the reality of life under a dictatorship is
> dramatically different, citing forced labour and other human
> rights abuses. They also warn that much of the money spent by
> visitors will vanish into the pockets of the military, which is
> closely involved with the tourist industry.
> Still, British tour operators are increasing the Burma
> programmes for 1996. British Airways Holidays, for example,
> has launched its first Burma holidays, and Asia World Travel,
> which offered trips to Burma since 1991, has expanded its
> programme. A Singaporean subsidiary of James Sherwood's
> London-based Sea Containers Group, has signed a 55 million
> pound sterling deal with the military to operate luxury cruises
> on the Irrawaddy River and a floating hotel in Rangoon.
> Yvette Mahon, coordinator of BAG, stated: "The tourism
> industry is very closely linked to the abuses. The situation in
> Burma is particularly shocking because it is so blatant."
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