With everything that is happening in the media surrounding Myanmar and the treatment of the Rohingya people, many people are probably questioning whether travel to this beautiful country is ethical. Coming out of decades of authoritarian rule, this once closed country has amazing beauty waiting to be explored and we believe you should not be put off traveling anywhere because of the actions of a country’s government.
The country’s de facto democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under media fire for the way she has dealt with the Rohingya crisis, outlets have now reversed their promotion of travel to Myanmar and are now condemning it.
So, is it ethical to travel to Myanmar? Yes! And here are our 3 reasons why:
1. Not all people in Myanmar are guilty of ethnic cleansing.
Most people in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere are not members of IS and we don’t treat everyone from there as an Islamic extremist, so why should we do the same to everyday people of Myanmar? While there is certainly a serious problem in Rakhine state in the west of Myanmar, these acts are not being committed by the people who you will meet every day. It is very much a case of religious-based extremism which does not represent the views of everyone in the country. Myanmar is made up of hundreds of different ethnic groups many of which have had their own internal struggles (such as the Shan) many of which received little to no international media coverage.
Extremist elements of government and the population exist in all countries, however is clearly not representative of the view of many people trying to go about their daily lives. Our tourist dollars and general foreign direct investment go a long way in aiding the overall economic development of the country. This should not be taken out of a country because of the extreme actions of a few people. Myanmar has taken years to open to the world, and because it has done so is one of the reasons we know that the acts being committed against the Rohingya are being committed in the first place.
2. People need to be exposed to outside voices!
While I have personally encountered Burmese people that are very anti-Muslim, I have also had the chance to speak to these people and show my viewpoints as to why no one should be persecuted because of their religion. When people grow up in a society where they only hear from one side they often tend to forget the larger picture, that is, people are people. Tourists coming in allow people to interact with locals and engage in cross-cultural understanding.
If we close off this country to tourists then we stop this type of dialogue and inadvertently continue to let toxic ideologies go unchallenged. Come to Myanmar, discuss these issues with the locals. Just remember this isn’t about telling another person what to do, instead is about opening them up to alternative ideals. After all, years of colonial rule have made many people in Myanmar opposed to taking advice from white foreigners.
3. Your tourist dollars are vital for change.
As a relatively new player in terms of open economies, Myanmar is still very much developing. Sure enough as well, Myanmar is experiencing many of the issues that come with being a developing nation. This will change quickly over time as education becomes more accessible to all through increased economic development. The tourism industry is one that can act to catapult certain areas of the country forward by providing easy services to tourists and providing incomes to some of the more remote peoples. Restaurants, accommodation, local guides and general souvenir purchasing all go a very long way to helping out local people in Myanmar. A few dollars might not be much to us but can go a long way for local people. Again, these people are not directly involved in the violence against the Rohingya and so their own development should not be hindered because of it.
We absolutely recommend you come and explore this wonderful country. It has so much to offer and is just waiting to become Asia’s newest tourist Mecca. Get in quick before it becomes overrun, which because of its immense beauty and history is sure to happen!
How about a quick getaway with us this Christmas, with our Myanmar Christmas tour beginning on December 20 in Yangon!