Travel in Burma 2015Burma Travel 2015
Are you sure it's secure to go to Burma? Behaviour and riots in 2015
We have seen a tremendous increase in interest in traveling to Burma in recent month, which is great news to both the Burmese and their population. But we also sometimes learn of prospective travelers who are put off by concerns about their own security in the countryside - or who have doubts about the ethics of promoting the promotion of the tourist industry in an area where there is still widespread bribery and violations of international law.
When you' ve had your eyes on the local headlines lately, you can hardly have overlooked the fact that things are not all right in Burma. Myanmar has long been in the grip of one of the oldest civilian conflicts in the entire planet, which began in 1948 and is still going on in some areas today.
Whilst the Burmese economy has taken significant strides in the right directions since 2010 (the army june has withdrawn from power, release of detainees and some oppressive legislation has changed), the fighting in Burma is far from over. We recently debated in a paper that we believe that educational, sustainable travel to Burma will be crucial for the country's future and now.
So what happens in Burma now? A large part of the uproar Burma is currently experiencing in the headlines is affecting the Rohingya tribe in the north of Rakhine - in the south. Rohingya are a Bengali Islamic nation, and although they themselves maintain to have their origins in Rakhine (also known as Arakan), the cosmopolitan agreement is that they have emigrated there from Bangladesh.
The Rohingya today number about 1.3 million and make up about 40% of the Rakhine state's total inhabitants. Rohingya makes up about 80-98% of the Rakhine north. Cruelty between Rohingya and the Rakhine tribe first erupted during the Second World War, after which the Rohingya were oppressed for two centuries by Burma's Ne Win, who finally revoked their right to vote in 1982.
Rather than being regarded as a citizen, most of Burma's Rohingya people have been classified over the past three centuries as "stateless Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh," with no right in a land where they were originally borne and grew up. Rohingya problems first came to the fore internationally in 2012, when the Rohingya minority in North Rakhine collided with the Rakhine minority in the North, driving some 200 people from their houses.
The CNN estimates that there are still more than 100,000 Rohingya imprisoned in detention centres, where the situation is pathetic and the inhabitants are not allowed to go - "for their own safety". At the beginning of this monthly, the Myanmar authorities adopted a law granting the owners of the "white card" (to which most Rohingya belong) the right to cast votes in a national constitutional referenda - a transitional move that would not give Rohingya nationality but would give them a say in the country's business.
However, the following morning thousand Tibetan Buddhists went to the roads of Yangon calling for the revocation of these recently grantedlements. On the same night President Thein gave in to His pressures and announced that the blank tickets would now end at the end of March and the new Rohingya votes would with them.
After the expiration of the blank card, any Rohingya who can show that his forebears moved to Burma before 1823 will be given nationality, while all others will be denied (according to Human Rights Watch). In addition to the recent unrest in the state of Rakhine, the situation in the state of Kachin in the northern part of the state has also increased.
Burma's war began when it became independent from Britain in 1948 and the Kachin Independent Organization was founded in 1961. Fights between the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) and the Burma Army recommenced in 2011 after a 17-year cease-fire when federal troops invaded KIA locations along the Taping River. There was a KIA head office assault by the federal administration in November 2014.
In the course of the war, both the Burma army and the insurgent troops are said to have behaved regardless of civil life - sometimes even against them. The Shan state is home to a large number of ethnical groups - some of them with their own armed groups. Although most of these groups initialled a cease-fire with Burma's army rulers, struggles erupted in mid-February this year between China's ethnical insurgents in Kokang county in the north of Shan and the Burma army, which led to the Burma administration imposing the Kokang self-governing zone on them.
The fights in the area are now over, and some are coming back to their houses - although many are still missing. What is unusual is that the Myanmar authorities have indeed gained much backing for their approach to the event - even from former detainees of the Burma Communist Party - by keeping the press informed of the events and invited journalists to take part in briefs.
Most of Shan State is not affected by the recent conflicts and can still safely move. By avoiding areas of concern, keeping an eye open for messages and following sensible tips on how to get there - yes, your trip is likely to be trouble-free. In most parts of Burma the risks to your security are very low - indeed lower than in many other favourite places in less developed countries - and we are very pleased to be able to send clients to Burma in 2015 and even go on to Burma.
Since 20 February 2015, the British authorities have been advising against all trips to Rakhine State and Kachin State (marked red on the chart below), with the exception of the seaside resorts of Ngapali (in Rakhine) and the cities of Myitkyina, Bhamo and Putao (in Kachin). Additional manifestations (such as the recent, violent and scattered Yangon students' protests) are anticipated regarding recent laws, so if you encounter any kind of opposition or demonstration while in any part of Burma, you should keep away from the crowds and not take photos or video - especially from the cops.
Whilst security is not a big topic for overseas travelers in Burma, a more worrying topic for many future travelers is whether their visits are ethically justifiable. It is known from a historical point of view that hard labor has been used in the preparations of Burma's tourism facilities and infrastructures, and it is not possible to know whether the funds you are spending are helping the locals or filling the pockets of a dirty officer.
Do you - and we - endorse the continued violations of Burma's regime's human rights by giving them our touristy funds? Burma's political opponent, Aung San Suu Kyi, has in the past asked visitors to keep away from Burma. "Still, I don't think Burma should be visited because most of the touristic funds go directly into the generals' pocket.
Not only that, it is a kind of ethical aid for them, because it makes the armed forces believe that the global fellowship is not against the constant violation of people' s freedoms. "This call for boycotts was honored by many (including the UK and other EU countries) until 2011, when the National League for Democracy (NLD), the Aung San Suu Kyi' side, proclaimed that it would now welcome good governance in Burma.
NLD's choice to reverse the trend in the tourist industry may have been affected by a number of different elements. First of all, the real impact of a blacking out on the road, which has only been truly complied with by a few countries, is low. Although Aung San Suu Kyi has proposed that the presence of foreign tourists could be seen as a sign of recognition for the Burma regimes, it could also be said that the more foreign observers there are in the Burma, the less the Burma authorities will be interested in continuing their violations of people' s freedoms.
More and more visitors to Burma to find out about their politics and get to know the local population, the more these issues will be exposed - and the more urgency the Myanmar authorities will exert to bring about genuine transformation. Although there are different views on this issue and it is still under discussion, we believe that sustainable and contemplative Burma is essential at this crucial time in the country's development.
It is not a matter of whether Burma continues to suffer violations of people' s freedoms (we know that this is the case), but whether the restraint of the tourist industry is having a truly beneficial impact on the overall picture.