Tourists shouldn't steer clear of Burma

It's perfectly safe to visit this glorious cultural and architectural tourist gem in Southeast Asia

20 September 2017 - 10:56 By HUGH MORRIS
Buddhist pilgrimage site Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Mon State, Burma.
Buddhist pilgrimage site Kyaiktiyo Pagoda in Mon State, Burma.
Image: JTB Photo/UIG/ Getty Images

Burma (Myanmar) lies well off the beaten track and has been blessed with breathtaking beauty and cultural and architectural attractions.

Tour operators in the country say it is both safe and morally sound for travellers to visit Burma, despite the conflict taking place in the north of the country.

"Some clients are concerned about visiting Burma from a moral point of view during the current troubles. Our view is that avoiding travel to Burma does not achieve anything and can in fact be to the detriment of the country as a whole," said Liddy Pleasants, managing director of Stubborn Mule Travel.

"None of the areas on our itineraries are in any way impacted by the current problems," said Pleasants. "Ngapali Beach is in Rakhine State but in the far south and around 500km away from where the violence is occurring. Large parts of the country now rely on tourism to a very great degree.

"In the past, much of the tourist infrastructure was owned by the government and there was a compelling argument that a tourist embargo would help avoid giving money to the government and therefore help bring about change.

"However, this is no longer the case; the vast majority of hotels and restaurants are now privately owned and employ local people. Guides are self-employed or work for privately-owned tourist enterprises. Drivers mostly work for privately-owned tourist enterprises. Taxi drivers, porters, waiters, souvenir sellers, ticket vendors, hawkers, craftsmen and many more derive all of their income from tourists and would find their livelihood very adversely affected if the tourists stopped coming.

"It is our opinion that avoiding travel to Burma will have little impact on the government and the military but a more profound impact on local people."

Depending on what time of the year you go, you can find return tickets to Burma from Johannesburg for about R12,000 through Emirates and Air BnB accommodation starting from about R300 per night.

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN BURMA?

The Burmese military has launched another offensive against Rohingya “extremists” in Rakhine state in its ongoing fight against “terrorism”, with the international community concerned that Muslim civilians are being targeted in the Buddhist-majority country. The UN has branded the offensive a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. - The Daily Telegraph. Additional reporting by Yolisa Mkele

• This article was originally published in The Times.