Travel in Burma 2016Burma Travel 2016
Here is my comprehensive Myanmar travel guide, tips, sample programs and pictures to help you plan your trip.
Are you sure it's safe to go to Burma? Myanmar's 2016 Conflict Handbook
Eighteen month ago we posted a blogs article titled "Is it secure to travel to Burma? Recognizing the continuing problems in Myanmar - from violations of people' s freedoms to local conflict - we wanted to answer many of our friends' and clients' questions: Was it secure to travel to Burma?
For more than a year since June 2015, Burma still experiences its just part of the problems - and as a travel agency in Burma, we still believe it is important to debate them instead of ignoring them. Since 2015 our embassy has not been changing - it is secure and ethically sound for visitors to come to Burma - but in this article we want to go a little bit further into what is going on and where and why.
Burma has been suffering from a number of ongoing domestic conflict in various areas since gaining Britain' s sovereignty in 1948 - often jointly described as the longest ongoing conflict in the state. Already before they became independent, many communities had long-standing hostilities going back to the generation - hostilities that were only intensified by the UK's politics of division and domination, which favoured certain groups over others - especially when the group in questions was converting to Christianity.
It was not only that, but also the only person who would have been able to unite Burma's indigenous groups - the popular General Aung San - was murdered along with most of his office before he could reach the desired level of peacefulness. In the course of the decade, many cease-fire arrangements have been made - not least the ill-considered and soon given up Panglong Agreement, which ensured the separation of certain ethnical groups, while others remained Stateless - but these have all disintegrated, and a national cease-fire has never been attained.
Most of the failures of such treaties are due to the fact that the objectives and complaints of minority communities, which are at the root of all these disputes, have not been achieved. If you want an overwhelming view of the backgrounds of Burma's ethnical dispute, please see this Burma Link executive brief. Myanmar is a large nation and the following disputes are localized - they only occur in areas that are either strictly monitored or not accessible to the tourist.
In 2016-17 we are very pleased to be able to continue to send people to Burma and to travel further to Burma ourselves. We have long believed that the tourist industry can contribute positively to Burma's growth, not only by creating employment and incomes for Myanmar companies, but also by increasing Burma's global consciousness and by exerting pressures on the country's army government to adhere to it.
Obviously there is still a long way to go before such goals are reached - but there has been and we still believe that it is right to support Burma through the tourist industry. You can find formal recommendations from the Burmese authorities on travel to Burma at the following links:
By the time you've followed the Burma related reports, you've probably been hearing a lot about the Rakhine State - also known as Arakan. The Rakhine state, as we last year said, is at the heart of a heated dispute between the Rohingya tribe (Muslims who have emigrated to Burma from Bangladesh since the fifteenth century) and the Rakhine tribe (Buddhists who do not recognize Rohingya's right to citizenship).
The Rohingya make up about 40% of the Rakhine state although they make up 80-98% of the Rakhine north. Rohingya's and Rakhine's conflict has disappeared since the Second World War, but only became international known in 2012, when a big war between the two groups claimed 200 lives and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands injured.
Today Burma's Buddhist ultra-nationalists are continuing to vigorously denounce any attempts to extend Rohingya's right, and as we saw in last year's score over the blank map, they are usually scorching. The Rohingya, who have been prosecuted for years under the army regimes, lost their right to vote in 1982 and have been living in dirty detention centres without any chance of citizenship since 2012, clearly have the greatest affinity in the West press.
To learn more about the root of the Rohingya issue, see this paper in The Diplomat. This October, the conflict in Rohingya was escalating when an attack was started by non-identified attackers against Bangladeshi guard who killed nine of our warriors. They responded by building an armoured "regional police" with non-Muslim citizens, while troops flocked to the area, combing the Rohingya towns and blocking humanity.
They claim to have murdered over 100 suspicious Rohingya assailants last months, but their enemies blame them for randomly murdering, violating and destroying the houses of the civilian population. Satelite imagery has corroborated the demolition of many Rohingya communities, and some Rohingya have escaped across the frontier into Bangladesh - where many of Bangladesh's frontier patrols have been rejected or executed.
You can find more information about the Rakhine State dispute on this special Al Jazeera message page. Which hopes are there for the Rohingya? Aung San Suu Kyi's new administration was expected to vote for Rohingya after its November 2015 elections, but the NLD leaders have been cautious so far.
However, it is clear that something must be done, and Suu Kyi has hired former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to bring an unbiased committee into the Rakhine state dispute - a move that has been denounced by the nationalist as unjustified xenophobic intervention - but has been greeted by the whole globe as a ray of expectation.
See this BBC paper for an assessment of how all this could affect the Rohingya. We do not recommend any travel to Rakhine state, except for the Ngapali beaches, which remain secure and accommodate the normal number of people.
Kachin began in the 1940' s when the Kachin Independence Organisation began to work for better minority participation and access to justice in Kachin State, Burma's very north. The Kachin troops joined the dominant Myanmar army, but when General Ne Win abolished the treaty in 1962, they abandoned and formed the Kachin Independence Army.
Ever since, the state of Kachin has more or less operated as its own separate county, with an extra-legal policing, fire service, educational system and migration authority, all financed by a flourishing illicit trafficking in man-made Jad and drugs. In 1994, a peacemaking treaty was concluded, which ended the conflict in 2011, when a number of coordinated aggressions against the KIA bases brought about a break in order.
Fights have led to a humanist crises in the area and Burma's armed forces have been convicted on an international scale for violations of international law in dealing with the war. The Shan state is the biggest area of Burma, located in the north east and borders on Kachin, China, Laos and Thailand. The Shan state's complaints can be retraced back to the 1947 Panglong Agreement, negotiated by the Aung San and Shan leadership, which gave the state the chance to separate from Burma after ten years.
Burma's regime never respected the treaty, prompting the Shan minority to revolt. Since then, Shan State has been the scene of almost continuous struggle between a large number of rebellious groups of people who have driven hundreds of millions of civilians out of their houses. Following the February 2015 skirmish in North Shan State, animosities seemed to have subsided for a while.
This was until early this months, when the Kachin Independence Army teamed up with three smaller groups of small Han insurgents to launch a surprising assault on junta troops and policemen near the China frontier. Attacking in this way is a major reorientation of force, as Kachin insurgents had not previously taken part in collisions insham state.
Now they have teamed up with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army to combat the Myanmar army, while the China Army is on high alarm and awaiting further action in the area. For more information on the recent Shan Strikes, please see this Reuters report.
Though it all seems pretty frightening - and for those affected by the violent, it is - the great majority of Shan State is still peacefully and safely travelling. There is nothing to be worried about when you visit Inle Lake, for example, and even in the northern part of Lashio you have nothing to be afraid of.
The Kachin state, by comparison, is largely taboo: while it is perfectly secure to go to Putao, Bhamo or Myitkyina (by plane only), the remainder of the state is restricted to other people. Although it is far from being a conflicting area, it is noteworthy that Yangon has recently experienced small-scale bombing. So far, no group has taken the blame for the attack, although some have claimed it is related to the Shan state war.
Away from Burma provincial conflict, Yangon is no greater hazard to tourists than any other metropolis. Therefore, there is no need to stay away from Yangon and to take more than the normal precautionary measures when traveling abroad. Hopefully this article has given you a better insight into the Burma issue and why it is important that we keep raising international attention on Burma matters.
So if you have any question about Burma, or if you are a client of Inside Burma Tours and are concerned about your forthcoming journey, please do not delay in contacting our staff and we will be pleased to speak with you.