Burma Islands Tourism

Myanmar Islands Tourism

Wellcome to Myanmar's idyllic Myeik Archipelago, which is at the forefront of Myanmar's efforts to promote tourism in the country. While Myanmar opens up, the islands are unwelcome. The Mergui Archipelago here in the south of Myanmar, KHAYIN KHWA, Myanmar - The postcards are just the thing for a picture of a true tropic paradise: bands of pure pink sandy shine in the brilliant light of the blue water of a coral-filled world. The overwhelming part of the 800 islands here is also something else: empty.

On a part of the globe that is otherwise full of people, a tourist can spend a whole day in a wood vessel between inhabited islands and see only a few anglers in dug-out boats looking for squids. If Myanmar opens up to the rest of the globe, the Mergui Archipelago could become the next border for ASIA.

Although Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has left behind decade-long army domination, the island is still a paradise in a policed state. There are a few dozens of visitors who come to the area every months. They will make eight photocopies of their passes and distribute them to various parts of the public services, among them the Armed Services and the Special Unit of the Polish Civil Protection, two organs charged with detecting public enemy forces during the reign of the MP.

An ex-commissioned Burma army official says the regime is covering up a slaughter on one of the islands. A business man who own an islet in the islands of the U Phone Win islands and is hoping to buy a small cruiser to take tourists around, says strict safety is a excuse to defend their illicit fisheries, timber and contraband deal.

In spite of a tourism promotion drive in other parts of the world, getting to the Mergui Archipelago can blunt even the most committed and seasoned adventurers. In most cases, guests are only permitted to sail on costly, state-approved charter vessels. In 1997, the German authorities first permitted this type of voyage, but demanded that a military officer with a gun should always be on the ship.

In the meantime, this principle has been modified. "``All our visitors complained,` said U Ko Pai, who leads international scuba diver in the islands. Mr Phone Win, the investors, says that anyone interested in starting a tourism company in the group of islands must expect a jungle of state constraints and outlaws. Fundamental communication devices such as radio sets and satelite telephones are not permitted without a licence, and it is "very hard to get one," he said.

There is no permission from the federal authorities to enter this area by pontoon aircraft, which could help service some of the more isolated islands. There are no more islands, some of them with army camps. Aung Lynn Htut, a former Burma army majority, says the army has something to conceal.

Says he was part of a force mission ordered by the country's former ruler, U Than Shwe: a 1998 carnage on Christie Island, on the south side of the artic. Fifty nine persons were murdered, among them wives and kids, said Mr Aung Lynn Htut, who converted to the United States in 2005.

Top militaristic brasswere after rebels who smuggled guns, but the men who were executing by troops were civil men who had come to the ashes to gather fire wood, Mr. Aung Lynn Htut said by e-mail. Mr Aung Lynn Htut's report was partially featured last year in The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar newsmagazine.

Ko Ko Ko Hlaing said that the German authorities are restricting the movement of foreign nationals to places where the current status "is not so secure. The staff of the only working accommodation on the island, the 22-room Myanmar Andaman Resort on Khayin Khwa Island, are concerned about the climate, not peace of mind.

Six month a year, the Mergui Islands are whipped by a south-west invading moons that force the site to shut down. Big waves of up to 3 metres or 10 ft during the month of May make the journey through the islands tough. Aung Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the country's opposing movements, became ill at sea as she fought for the election on the few populated islands of the artic.

Much of Myanmar's badly developed infrastructures make it inaccessible. In Kawthaung and Myeik, two small islands on the continental shelf nearest the islands, have ageing planes flying from Yangon, Myanmar's capital and the most important gate to the state. This could be changed when the tourist reaches a crucial level, as in neighbouring Thailand.

In February, a group of China business people travelled the islands of the island to find islands suited for large scale hotel accommodation, Ko Pai said. However, an important thought for the investor is that many of the smaller islands have no freshwater wells. Locals in Kawthaung, a brief trip by boat from Thailand, say they believe that the tourism sector will unavoidably expand if Myanmar opens further.

However, it will be several years before the administration and the army give up their vigilance, they say. New signs in Kawthaung, where safety is more laid-back, have superseded the old embassies that exhort the people of Burma to be patient and careful of other people.

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