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Myanmar–the ethical question to visit or not

Having been cut off from most of the rest of the world for decades travel to Myanmar remains a ethical decision. Does visiting mean money going to a dictatorship or to citizens who desperately need it.
Opposition leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi originally stated in 1996 that tourists should not come to Myanmar. This stance has been moderated to “tourists to the country can be useful, depending on how they go about it.”
The decision is ultimately a personal one and to make it you need some objective facts.
A very good summary of the issues can be found on the Lonely Planet Should You Go? They discuss the history of the situation and a number of reasons both for and against visiting. Other such resources include http://www.tourismconcern.org.uk/index.php?page=burma-not-black-and-white and http://www.havepack.com/the-ethics-of-traveling-to-burma/
Based on 2009 statistics Burma had 600,000 tourists per annum compared to neighbouring Thailand which has 14,000,000. Some current reports on the situation include http://www.eturbonews.com/20754/2010-golden-year-myanmar-tourism and a comprehensive report from the Info Birmanie TOURISM_REPORT_IB_June2011.pdf
Reasons NOT to go include

  • tourists dollars will go to the government no matter how hard you try for them not to
  • tourism sights were developed with forced labour and many families were relocated to establish them,
  • tourists can be seen as a vindication of the military government
  • internal travel is still restricted

Reasons TO go include

  • Locals do want you to visit and some money will benefit them – even if some inevitably ends up with the government
  • Human rights violations are less likely to happen if there is international presence
  • Myanmar is a stunningly beautiful country with friendly people

To buy the lonley planet Myanmar

or any of these good information sources

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