Sunday, July 23, 2006

THE BURMA BULLIES

"Malaysia's foreign minister, Syed Hamid Albar, the chairman of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), said the group's fortunes were being held hostage by Burma, which has refused to initiate a transition to democracy despite repeated pledges to do so.
"Asean now has reached a stage where it is not possible to defend its member when that member is not making an attempt to cooperate," Mr Syed Hamid said at a conference of Asean legislators."


I can't see China or India taking much notice of this considering their investments in Burma but it's worth bringing the Junta to the world's attention. There is a dirty list of companies that invest or operate in Burma including Travel Agencies. A lot of the tourist accommodation was built by child slave labour and Burmese activists have asked that tourists not visit the country and contribute to the Junta's deep pockets. The Junta also controls the heroin trade and the gem mines. Don't buy Burmese rubies.

I am in two minds about the tourist trade however. If you're going to sit in an exclusive resort and never venture out except in convoy with the other exclusive resort visitors then I'd suggest you stay home. But if you're able to wander around the country and talk, with discretion, to the Burmese people then by all means go. Have a good look around, talk to students, people in the street, in the villages then bring the stories back. This country is so closed that offers of help during the aftermath of the tsunami were rejected. As always, in countries like Burma, don't act the ugly Australian abroad.

8 comments:

Andrew said...

Isolation or engagement. Tourism or none. In Burma's case, clearly whatever the present policies are, they are not working. Becasue we know very well how bad things are there, without talking to the locals, and they request it, I would be on the side of no tourism.

R H said...

Miss Jahteh I've been to Burma, a very long time ago, but have a feeling that not much has changed. And that's good.

This is a country that has already been meddled with by Western and Oriental capitalists, but has so far remained unaffected. Organised tourism would soon end that. Capitalist dogs love a show, that's the trouble; and they love uniformity, predictabiliy; a worldwide McDonalds.
Burma is still unique, but just like other countries with a tourist industry, it could end up a parody of itself in song and dance.

phil said...

I'm trying to remember my stats, I think when I was there (mid-late 80s) there was about 50,000 tourists a year. There wasn't anything remotely 5 star (there is now I believe) but you sure got an 'experience'. There was some opportunity to talk to real locals altho' there was a pervasive system of spies to rat on neighbours. In the main the tourists were those who valued something different, and knew enough about Burma to not expect uniformity. The place was just starting to get 'affected' around that time and since then, ordinary Burmese have been more able to travel abroad. The lid is kept on by a repressive army and secret police.

R H said...

In about 1978 I met up with two poms and a New Zealader in Calcutta, and we flew to Rangoon on Burmese Airways. It was a bumpy flight on a DC9 which shook and rattled all the way. We had seven day visas - which was the maximum you could get, and there were travel restrictions as well; we wanted to go up to Mandaly but weren't allowed to travel by road, so we took the train. We came back by barge on the Irrawaddy, then by horse and cart to a train station, and finally by train.
In Rangoon we slept on the floor of an old YMCA building - probably a relic from the British Raj. During the entire seven days I saw only one or two other Westerners, and none at all in Rangoon.

I really don't know how many tourists Burma is getting now, but from what I hear it seems not much has changed there in thirty years. You get a lot of bullshit from this side of the fence about repression and so on, and none at all about our own anxieties, materialism, and total depression.

JahTeh said...

My ex's best friend went there in the early eighties when tourists were a rarity so it was an adventure trip and he loved it.

That is the problem RH, we don't get enough information on the inner workings but I do know from the WHO about the spread of HIV and AIDS and sufferes get less help than in Africa.

R H said...

RH is never an expert.

Brownie said...

cheeses riced! RH refuses to post his own blog bits and he has stories like that in his resume.

I came here to mention that woman of grace, Aun San Kyu Thingummy, whose Party was elected democratically by a landslide number of seats, causing The Bastards to imprison her.

Can you imagine if Julia Gillard's Labor Party swept the elections and Howard just put her in Long Bay Prison?.

JahTeh said...

RH is an enigma. Get a blog and tell us more.

Brownie that woman is a legend and they don't dare do anything to her. Wouldn't I love Julia Gillard to landslide to victory.