A survey last week by responsibletravel.com of 500 tourists (who enquired about responsible holidays) reveals 28% think it is ethical to travel to Burma (Myanmar) . The tourist boycott of Burma (or Myanmar), part of broader sanctions whose aim is to cripple the ruling military junta and return Burma to democratic rule, was instigated by Aung San Suu Kyi and has the support of Tony Blair.
The Free Burma coalition, long-time supporters of the boycott, says sanctions are not working. It claims Asian investors are filling the gap left by the West’s withdrawal, and believes the West will lose any chance it once had of influencing the domestic human rights situation. Their new motto is: “an open society cannot be built in and through isolation”.
The 72% of responsible travellers who support the boycott continue to do so at the request of Myanmar ‘s democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi: “...they [the military authorities] seem to look on the influx of tourists as proof that their actions are accepted by the world.” (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, January 1999)
The Burma Campaign reinforces this stance through its 2005 ‘I’m not going’ initiative which has the backing of Tony Blair who urged, “...anyone who may be thinking of visiting Burma on holiday to consider carefully whether by their actions they are helping to support the regime and prolong such dreadful abuses”
Justin Francis , Co-Founder of responsibletravel.com commented: “This was once a cut and dried issue so we were surprised to find that as many as 28% from our survey of responsible travellers believe it is ethical to travel to Burma . Despite this we will continue with our policy of not marketing holidays to Burma.”
The responsibletravel.com survey has elicited some interesting additional responses: “I respect the fact that we do not support dreadful regimes. I also believe good people should not be left out in the cold. Dilemma indeed.” (D.Martin)
“Although I can understand your position to honour Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s wishes, I respectfully disagree with your position. I believe that the absence of witnesses is what has allowed the human rights abuses to flourish. Out of sight, out of mind has been the result of this policy to date.” (C.Torres)
“Independent travelling maybe a way for those in Burma to feel remembered.” (Peter C)
“It’s depressing, but I don’t think the isolation policy is working or will work.” (B.Stewart-Cox)