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Subject: Re: VISIT MYANMAR YEAR 1996: "DEAD ON ARRIVAL"/Lonely Planet Boycott??

dear all:

after considering the information in the message below -- particularly joe
cumming's appalling viewpoints -- i would like to organize a boycott of
Lonely Planet's publications.  does anyone on the list support me in doing

i will be the first to admit to having used his books in the past; i'm sure
many of us have.  in general they are helpful, even if the information is
often outdated by the time they reach the bookstores.  however, in light of
the comments he has been making concerning "Visit Myanmar Year" -- which
basically amount to his giving support to SLORC's plans to profit off
burma's tourists -- i think it's time to add Lonely Planet to our list of
companies in collusion with the regime.

i would like to have printed x-thousand bookmarks,  which will say, in 10
or so languages....."Boycott Visit Myanmar Year/Boycott Lonely Planet/Don't
Buy This Book/" etc., accompanied by an effective photograph: forced labor,
prisoners in leg-irons, etc...

i will distribute the bookmarks to people on the list who contact me
directly; those who receive bookmarks will be expected to place them in
Lonely Planet publications in bookstores -- especially the "Myanmar" book.

i'll only ask people to send me a small amount of money to cover the
mailing costs, but i will pay for the printing of these bookmarks myself.
however, as printing costs are quite expensive here in japan, i'd rather
have them done in the u.s. or europe.

can anyone recommend a good place in the states/europe to have them printed?

any comments/criticism/support for this strategy would be greatly


"attention creates value"

>From: Ken and Visakha Kawasaki <brelief@xxxxxxx>
>Subject: VISIT MYANMAR YEAR 1996: "DEAD ON ARRIVAL"  Debate on Joe
>Cummings, revisited, from new frontiers
>new frontiers
>Monthly Briefing on Tourism, Development and Environment Issues
>in the Mekong Subregion
>Vol. 2, No.10
>October 1996
>new frontiers
>Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team
>Email:  TERRAPER@xxxxxxxxxx
>(TN: 29.4.96; 4.10.96; 9.10.96; 10.10.96) - DURING the latest crackdown of
>the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) on the Burmese democracy
>movement in September, riot police and military troops reportedly arrested
>800 members and supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the
>country, and even detained tourists who tried to approach Aung San Suu Kyi's
>home in Rangoon's University Avenue to listen to her weekend speech. Riot
>police also held photographers and television journalists for international
>media organizations at their hotels and confiscated film and tapes of police
>barricades near Suu Kyi's house. Foreigners, who witnessed the events, were
>horrified about the state authorities' actions.
>"They're terrible," said Fiona Barrows, an Australian tourist whose English
>boyfriend Andrew Hewlett was rounded up with two other European tourists and
>taken away in a truck. "We just came to hear (Suu Kyi) speak because we
>wanted to understand her point of view," she said. "The soldiers told us to
>leave and when Andy asked why, they pushed him and dragged him and the other
>two away."
>"This shows they just want power," commented a tourist from Denmark, who was
>not arrested but pushed away from University Avenue by police. "They treat
>their own people like they're not humans, like they're animals."
>The SLORC's handling of the tourists also outraged tour agents. "It ruined
>everything," said one local agent, adding the junta's 'Visit Myanmar Year',
>set to begin on 18 November, is a fiasco. "They say they wanted tourists and
>they arrested them. Some tourists at University Avenue were searched, and
>films were seized at the Rangoon Airport before they left."
>The US government responded to the latest mass arrests with a travel ban for
>SLORC generals and their families to the USA, and shortly after, SLORC
>announced it will no longer issue visas for US officials to enter Burma. A
>Burmese living in a America, commented in a letter to The Nation: "Visit
>Myanmar Year 1996 ... is DOA (dead on arrival)... How can you successfully
>ask American tourists to visit Burma when SLORC became the only country in
>the world to publicly announce they will not issue a visa to an American
>president as well as {other US officials)?"
>In spite of the increasingly tense situation, Bangkok-based Diethelm Travel,
>the largest travel agency operating in Burma and Indochina, remains
>optimistic that Burma tourism is going to boom. Maren Dannhorn, Diethelm's
>managing director in charge of Burma tours, was adamant that promoting and
>encouraging tourism was an essential ingredient to further openness in Burma
>and the entire Mekong region. Clearly, business and politics played the
>leading role in international relations, she said, but with the help of
>tourist demand, almost all of Burma was now open to tourists. Forecasting
>booking increases of 75 per cent for Burma this year, Diethelm's general
>manager Luzi Matzig claimed that overseas tourism interest in Mekong region
>destinations, including Burma, "is so great that political issues are
>secondary. We believe that travellers from abroad should go there to see,
>and judge, for themselves. Only then would they be qualified to comment..
>(See also 'Debate', p.4).
>(BP: 11.9.9; 1.9.96;24.9.96) FEARING rise in moneylaundring, drug
>trafficking and crime, Thai authorities are viewing with deep concern the
>construction of two casinos on the Burmese side of the Golden Triangle, both
>scheduled for opening next year.
>The Golden Triangle Paradise Resort company, an affiliate of the Thai P.P.
>Group, recently resumed work on its mega-tourism project which includes a
>150-room hotel with a casino, restaurants, a dutyfree market with a currency
>exchange facility, a swimming pool and two golf courses. There will be also
>a pier to accommodate boats and ferries taking gamblers from Thailand across
>the Mekong River to the casino. Construction started in the middle of 198~8
>after the SLORC regime gave investors a 30 year lease to build the
>casino-plus-golf resort on Burmese territory. Work came to a halt in 1991,
>however, when a military coup took place in Thailand which toppled the
>government headed by Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan.
>The investors of the project include Prasit Phothasathon, the younger
>brother of the Thai MP Praphat, and a number of other Thai and foreign
>businessmen. The Thai Withavas Construction Co. is the contractor of the
>resort project. The Thai Interior Ministry recently ordered the re-opening
>of a border checkpoint to facilitate transportation of construction material
>from Thailand to the project site in Burma.
>The scheme has been roundly condemned by local residents on the Thai side of
>the border and Thai officials who fear the casino could threaten national
>security. The casino business would pose a threat to border villagers, both
>in Thailand and Burma, said Col. Choosak Anujomphan, deputy director of the
>Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC)'s office in Chiang Rai province,
>adding that the area would become prone to all forms of illegal activities
>such as smuggling of war weapons and drug trafficking, while criminal gangs
>could use the area as a hide-out. This part of the Thai-Burma border is also
>notorious for trafficking women and girls from Burma and China to work as
>prostitutes in Thai brothels.
>Sujit Detkul, a former politician, said the casino could become an outlet
>for gamblers from northern Thailand to launder dirty money, and unemployed
>locals would increasingly turn to gambling.
>The second casino project, owned by Zamsuen, the third son of drug warlord
>Khun Sa, will be located on a 44-acre plot in Tachilek opposite Thailand's
>Mae Sai district. The SLORC gave the land to Khun Sa after he capitulated to
>the Rangoon regime earlier this year, and his son plans to invest US$20
>million in developing the area into a tourist venue complete with a casino,
>a 200-room hotel and other entertainment facilities.
>'Lonely Planet' guidebooks are the bibles for tens of millions of
>globe-trotting tow budget tourists. However, an article by Joe Cummings,
>author of the 'Lonely Planet' guide on Burma, published in The Nation under
>the title 'Will tourism helps democracy in Burma' led to a storm of protests
>by supporters of the Burmese democracy movement as well as Burmese citizens.
>The following are quotes by those who contributed to the lively debate
>around the boycott of 'Visit Myanmar Year' in The Nation.
>Joe Cumming. (9.9.96): "From what I have seen and experienced, tourism
>development in Burma benefits many ordinary Burmese - not just generals or
>foreign investors as some reports would have us believe. In spite of high
>inflation, the average Burmese today is politically and economically better
>off than in 1985 ... Since the package-tour requirement was waived in 1998,
>many Burmese citizens have been able to make a living from tourism, which
>channels more money directly to ordinary people than any other form of
>foreign activity in the country... (A friend of mine) voted for the NLD and
>is an ardent supporter of Suu Kyi, but he was disappointed about 'The
>Lady's' call for a boycott... I haven't met a single person inside Burma who
>supported a tourism boycott, including the many people I have met in the
>pro-democracy movement.
>"Does tourism boost the use of draft labour in Burma? None of the highway
>and railways project cited by tourism critics can be said to be serving
>tourists more than the general populace - in fact the opposite appears to be
>true... The only draft labour project that can be attributed to tourist
>promotion was the Mandalay Palace restoration, as much a symbol of Burman
>nationalism as a tourist attraction, completed earlier this year... Urban
>beautification projects - which have also used draft labour - have been
>undertaken in areas that aren't visited by tourists as well as those that
>are. The greatest human rights abuses currently take place away from foreign
>public view, though they are becoming more difficult to hide with the
>proliferation of independent travellers finding their way into decreasingly
>remote corners of the country...
>'There isn't a single indication that government repression, which has
>thrived on 34 years of political isolation and virtual non-visitation will
>somehow slacken due to a relative lack of visitors."
>Faith Doherty, Southeast Asian Information Network, Chiang Mai (12.9.96):
>"... The pro-democracy movement has always stated that to support this
>(Visit Myanmar Year) campaign means supporting SLORC; staying away until
>after this tourism campaign ends is a way of showing your support to the
>movement for democracy and human rights in Burma.
>"To say that the average Burmese is politically better off now is
>ridiculous... The army controls the country and in that position conducts
>horrendous human rights abuses in rural arena, including SLORC-controlled
>territory... To say that the greatest human rights abuses currently taking
>place are shielded from the foreign public view is about the only correct
>fact that Cummings has stated."
>Christina Fink, Burma Project, Chiang Mai (13.9.96): "... The average person
>in Burma is not better off in 1996 than they were in 1985. It is true that
>the military elite and their associates are doing better, but the vast
>majority are in worse shape than before... Human rights abuses have not
>decreased in the face of mounting tourism. If anything, the military
>junta... has demanded more forced labour, ordered more forced relocations,
>and extorted more taxes... (Cummings says), forced labour on roads is not
>connected to tourism. In fact, many tourists (especially the ones reading
>Lonely Planet guides) do travel by bus and train. Moreover, some airports in
>Burma have also been built with forced labour...
>"... as Suu Kyi has pointed out, boycotting Visit Myanmar Year is not just
>about denying dollars to the junta. It is also about denying international
>legitimacy to a regime that has no legitimacy with its own people."
>Gil Carroll, Bangkok ( 14.9.96): "...It may be true that the average person
>in Burma today is better off economically now, while it is also true that
>significant numbers in Burma are worse off today. Many Burmese, such as the
>500,000, who work illegally in Thailand, are economically better off today
>because they have left Burma altogether... In 1985, there were less than
>20,000 refugees who had left Burma. Today, there are several hundred
>thousand refugees... Recent cease-fires between the SLORC and the ethnic
>groups have not even brought peace, let alone political improvement, as
>shown by the subsequent increase in numbers fleeing Burma. The recent
>arrests of members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD)
>are clear evidence that despite an increase in tourism, political life in
>Burma is not improving... How ignoring the requests of Burma's
>democratically-elected leadership will help democracy is unclear in
>Cummings' article.
>Joe Cummings responds (19.9.96): "I fully understand the symbolic value of a
>Visit Myanmar Year (VMY) boycott campaign, but my position is that trying to
>turn Burma into Cuba - strengthening the government while weakening the
>people - is essentially an empty gesture... I cannot agree with the chosen
>tactic given my own observation that this is not the will of the Burmese
>people and given my belief that this is an unfruitful tactic...
>"(There is) the oft-repeated error of referring to Suu Kyi (who is opposed
>to tourism as long as SLORC is in power) as an elected leader... Suu Kyi is
>a courageous and extremely admirable person, but unless I missed something
>in my research, elected she's not."
>Ethan Casey, a writer for the Canadian The Globe and Mail newspaper, was the
>only contributor to the debate who defended Cummings' position ( 19.9.96):
>"...As with other polarized topics, disputants on (as also in) Burma often
>seem to be talking past each other. Cummings' view struck me as thoughtful
>and intelligent. His adversaries, while no doubt well-meaning, seem to share
>an unhelpfully self-righteous attitude common to many dissidents since the
>dawn of politics... Political efficacy or specific morality aside, for my
>own private reasons I find boycotts distasteful - whether it's a boycott
>Visit Myanmar Year or a don't drink Pepsi campaign."
>Ye Thu Haing, All Burma' Students' League, Bangkok (21.9.96): "...
>Unfortunately, we have a dictatorial regime. Worse, our rights to have
>access to education, receive reasonable wages, eat the food we like, and to
>so many other things, have been violated. We face imprisonment if we
>criticize the SLORC policies... These people have committed innumerable
>crimes. They have abused power beyond reason... We are against the Visit
>Myanmar Year as long as SLORC is in power. The proceeds from this will be
>used to buy more arms and ammunition to kill more people. We would like to
>remind Cummings not to write articles that only benefit the SLORC since he
>does not understand everything that is happening in Burma."
>Ken and Visakha Kawasaki, Burma Reliet Centre-Japan (BRC-J) (24.9 96):
>"...BRC~J is a repository of Burma related materials, photographic evidence,
>raw footage and finished videos, photocopied documents, first-hand
>testimony, and finished reports - evidence of precisely the abuses (in
>Burma) that Cummings wants to gloss over... Actually (John) Pilger and his
>cameraman (in their TV-programme inside Burma: Land of Fear, eavesdropped on
>some typical sightseers in their lackadaisical ignorance of the realities in
>Burma. Those tourists could have spent four months there, ...and they could
>have travelled from one end of the country to the other and remaining none
>the wiser....Because of (Cummings) proselytizing for SLORC's Visit Myanmar
>Year, we would like to propose a boycott of Lonely Planets travel guides as
>well as a boycott of tourism in Burma until democracy comes."
>Kanbawsa Win, Nonthaburi (25.9.96): "As a Burmese, after reading articles
>from Joe Cummings and Ethan Casey, I 'm quite depressed and confused... Joe
>Cummings should be put in the same category as the US State Department's
>Alison Kruprick arid Tom Wilson, who jointly wrote "The US Policy At the
>Crossroads", which urged Washington to recognize the ruling junta (in
>Burma). It is a known fact that SLORC, in cooperation with multi-national
>corporations, have employed academics, and paid them handsomely, to write
>favorably of their rule."
>Richard Schwartz, Ayuttaya (25.9.96): "Joe Cummings argues that a tourism
>boycott of Burma would hurt, rather than help, the Burmese people. However,
>every instance (Cumming's) produces as an example only explains how the
>boycott would affect those in the Burmese tourism industry. Given that he is
>himself a part of the said industry, I found the entire article to be very
>self-serving and insensitive."
>Soe Pyne (26.9.96): "... l can safely assume that (Cummings) has very little
>interest or cares much about the popular democracy movement in my country.
>For Cummings' information, Suu Kyi is an elected leader... she is a leader
>elected by MPs of the National League for Democracy (NLD) who were elected
>in the May 1990 elections... The campaign to oppose SLORC's tourist
>programmes is part of the overall strategy of the Burmese democracy
>movement; that is, to create conditions conducive to a dialogue for national
>reconciliation. A travel boycott, even if it makes a negative contribution
>in the short run, is vitally important because of the positive impact in the
>long run. We feel that we should place a higher priority on the future good
>of the country.
>Tim Wright, Thai Action Committee for Democracy In Burma, (25.9.96) invited
>concerned and interested parties for a meeting to further stimulate an open
>debate on the sensitive issues concerning "Visit Myanmar Year 1996".