Burma Campaign UK today ended its call for all tourists not to visit Burma, following a decision by National League for Democracy leaders to better target the boycott. The Burma tourism boycott is now targeted at package tours. Burma Campaign UK follows the policy of Burma’s democracy movement, and made the decision following consultations with the NLD.
In an interview published today in The Times newspaper, where the more relaxed approach was announced, NLD leader U Win Tin said: “We want people to come to Burma, not to help the junta, but to help the people by understanding the situation: political, economic, moral – everything.”
However, he also warned against large scale package tourism: “To have a very big cruise ship with hundreds of tourists coming in – that’s a lot of money for the regime, and so we don’t like such big business.”
The NLD is now solely calling for a boycott targeting package tours which bring significant revenue to the dictatorship. Visits by individuals and small groups who want to learn more about the situation in Burma will now be welcomed. Due to restrictions on communications as part of her house arrest conditions, Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, has not yet been able to approve the more relaxed approach to tourism.
The policy on tourism is similar to the NLD policy on economic sanctions. The NLD calls for targeted economic sanctions, not blanket sanctions.
The National League for Democracy first called for a tourism boycott 15 years ago, after the dictatorship launched Visit Myanmar year in 1996. The dictatorship had identified tourism as a source of revenue and foreign currency which it could use to expand the military, and human rights abuses were also linked with development of tourism, with some tourist facilities built using forced labour.
“The more relaxed approach to tourism does not mean the problems in Burma are over and people can go on holiday there like in a normal country,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “There is still no way to visit Burma without the dictatorship and their business cronies taking some of your money. Mass package tourism, staying in a luxury hotel or just lying on a beach isn’t going to help the people of Burma, but it will help the generals. Tourists will have to be very careful to minimise putting money in the generals’ pockets if they do plan to visit.”
Tourism industry companies on the ‘Dirty List’ will now be removed. Any companies involved in mass package tourism to Burma may be placed on the ‘Dirty List’ when it is next updated.
“We are very grateful to all the individuals and companies which supported the democracy movement position to boycott all tourism to Burma. The boycott campaign has deprived the dictatorship of revenue and helped raise awareness about the situation in Burma,” said Mark Farmaner. “The tourism boycott is just one small part of international campaigning to promote human rights in Burma. However, in recent years, controversy around the boycott sometimes diverted attention away from other more important campaigns, such as bringing Burma’s generals to justice for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The boycott of all tourism to Burma may be over, but the campaign for human rights and democracy goes on.”