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Yvette Mahon Burma Action Group Collins Studios Collins Yard
Islington Green London N1 2XU

Tel: 44 171 359 7679 Fax: 44 171 354 3987 E-mail: bagp@xxxxxxxxxx

Date:   14/5/96    For Immediate release


The Burma Action Group (BAG) will be holding a demonstration
outside the London headquarters of Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Ltd, Sea Containers House, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 between 12
and 2pm on Thursday 16 May.

This well-known company, almost a British institution, is one of
the largest foreign tour operators in Burma.  It refutes all
evidence from Burma's democracy movement and from human rights
organisations, that Burma's people are suffering as a result of
tourism development under the military regime, the State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC) that ruthlessly controls the
country. The SLORC has deemed 1996 "Visit Myanmar Year" in order
to further legitimise their dictatorship of the country and to
draw in the hard currency it needs to survive. The Orient Express
Group operate the "Road to Mandalay" cruise liner, offering luxury
"champagne-style" cruises along Burma's  Irrawaddy River. They
have already earned approximately US$2.5million in advance

*SLAVE LABOUR Meanwhile the people of Burma pay the price. A
massive programme of development is being carried out across Burma
to prepare the country for tourists.  The actual road to Mandalay
is more chillingly referred to as the "road of no return" by the
civilian slave labourers forced to upgrade the road to ease
tourist travel. An estimated two million people including children
as young as eight years old have been forced into slave labour.
Thousands of people have died under the harshest of conditions.
Holiday makers will be using facilities built using forced labour
and visiting sites from which local people have been forcibly

*FORCED RELOCATION The brochure of the "Road to Mandalay" cruise
refers, without a trace of irony, to the virtues of the historic
town of Pagan- "Nothing can prepare you for this sight, Bagan a
ghost city".  An estimated three million people country-wide,
including the people of Pagan, have been forced from their homes
to 'clean-up' tourist sites or make way for new developments.

Burma's democracy movement has asked tourists to stay out of Burma
for as long as the illegal regime continues to wage a war against
its own people. Nobel Peace Prize Winner and leader of the
democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD), Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi, has urged tourists and the tourism industry not
to lend support to the military's "Visit Year".  "Those foreign
businessmen... need to be reminded that this is one of the most
brutal military regimes in the world and putting money into the
country now is simply supporting a system that is severely harmful
to the people of Burma."

* THE TOUR OPERATORS' ROLE A small number of British tour
operators have written to Burma's Minister for Hotels & Tourism,
explaining that they will not be operating tours to Burma until
they are confident that forced labour and forced relocation - both
a by-product of tourism in Burma - have ceased.  Even tour
operators currently going to Burma decided at a meeting organized
by Tourism Concern to send a letter to Burma's Minister of Hotels
& Tourism expressing their concern at human rghts abuses connected
to tourism.  The letter was sent last week.  The Orient-Express
Group is not amongst them and has yet to demonstrate any concern
or interest in the well documented evidence of wide scale human
rights abuses connected to tourism.

The Burma Action Group, which has been active in its efforts to
discourage tourism under the present regime, last month launched
its critical report on tourism in Burma - "Burma: The Alternative
Guide". Yvette Mahon, Coordinator, said " Of course we see why
people might like to visit Burma, and why  companies such as
Orient Express are keen to pave the way. However the use of forced
labour and the summary relocation of entire communities are
extremely serious human rights abuses. These ought not to be
sidelined by any responsible person or company in the search for
an exotic holiday destination. The country will always be there,
and tourists will be warmly welcomed under a democratic
government. The SLORC is literally making a killing from tourism,
we urge tourists and the tourism industry not to lend this cruel
and greedy dictatorship the financial support and legitimacy it
seeks. "

The Burma Action Group believe John Pilger's powerful
documentary,"Inside Burma: Land of Fear"  shown on Carlton on
Tuesday 14 May will raise public consciousness of the true
situation in Burma today. The film makes explicit the murderous
connection between human rights abuses and tourism development in
Burma, and is itself critical of the Orient Express Group's
involvement and abdication of responsibility.

For further information contact Yvette Mahon at the Burma Action
Group on 0171 359 7679.