Travel Responsibly in Burma

Tourism in Myanmar (Burma) has long been a thorny issue. This Q&A, taken from Lonely Planet Magazine, answers the all-important questions about the ethics of visiting this stunning country.

Why have travellers stayed away?In the past, the Burmese opposition (the National League for Democracy, or NLD) has argued that a visit to Burma amounts to an endorsement of the regime and puts money in the government’s pockets. There’s evidence that some tourism developments have been built with forced labour, and that villages have been cleared to make way for high-end hotels. A drive to increase tourist numbers by the Burmese government in the 1990s was met with a boycott from many travellers, although some argued that this added to the isolation of ordinary Burmese people.

What are the reasons to go now?The NLD’s Aung San Su Kyi now suggests that responsible travellers can help to change Burma. Other pro-boycott activists, including Burma Campaign UK, have also reversed their position on the issue in recent times. Burmese people invariably welcome visitors and, with a little thought, it’s possible to ensure much of the money you spend goes to the private sector rather than the government.

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