The following are a few of our thoughts on the current situation with regards Burma (Myanmar) tourism. We wouldn’t claim in any way to understand the entire situation – and it is certainly more complicated than initial appearances – nor would we presume our opinions are necessarily the correct ones.
Firstly, we categorically and unreservedly condemn the recent actions of the Burmese military in Rakhine State and are, to say the least, disappointed by the lack of any condemnation from the Burmese government. Ok, nothing new about brutality towards minorities on the part of certain elements of the military and while we do acknowledge the extremely tenuous and difficult position the current Burmese leadership is in, we don’t feel that provides a sufficient enough excuse for total inaction.
As usual, as Brits, we need to take a lot of the historical blame for the rather arbitrary carving up of our Indian colony in the post-war period. Ethnic and political problems in newly created Pakistan and East Pakistan, (now Bangladesh), rapidly and tragically reached boiling point whereas problems with then newly delineated Burma have been simmering since.
The Burmese military justifies today’s brutal overreaction to what it claims is the threat of extremist Muslim terrorism. Bear in mind, of course, similar justifications were given for another infamous overreaction and the on-going US/Western ‘war on terror’ has since caused the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
We’ve seen knee-jerk reactions of late in the media suggesting a new Burma boycott which we also categorically disagree with. It’s been proved many times before – and indeed in the case of Burma itself – that such trade and/or tourism boycotts and sanctions affect the ordinary, innocent people to a far greater extent than the actual generals or power brokers responsible. What’s the point in punishing the general population – now just on the road to some kind of recovery and normality after years of hardship – for the actions of a few?
Furthermore, while of course, you could say there are degrees, very few nations in Southeast Asia, or for that matter anywhere else, would stand up to too close scrutiny either. As we said then no excuse what so ever for the Burmese army’s abhorrent actions or the inaction of Aung San and the government but we don’t reckon that’s justification whatsoever to punish the general population!