NLD Welcomes Responsible Tourism, But Warns Against Abuses
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

NLD Welcomes Responsible Tourism, But Warns Against Abuses

By KO HTWE Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Foreign tourists visit Pagan. (PHOTO: AP)

Correction Appended

Burma's opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said it welcomes responsible tourism that does not cause human rights abuses and environmental degradation in the country.

“The NLD would welcome visitors who are keen to promote the welfare of the common people and the conservation of the environment and to acquire an insight into the cultural, political and social life of the country while enjoying a happy and fulfilling holiday in Burma,” said the party statement released on Friday last week.

The statement marks a remarkable change in the party's policy toward tourism which it formally boycotted since 1996 when the ruling military regime actively campaigned for tourists to visit the impoverished Southeast Asian country which is nonetheless rich in historical and natural sites.

In its statement, the NLD said that its previous boycott of tourism was aimed at drawing international attention to the country's human rights violations and the monopoly over the tourist industry by the ruling elite and its cronies.

Due to its tourism boycott and support for Western economic sanctions against the country, the NLD has been in the past accused by the ruling military leaders of neglecting the welfare of the public and worsening the country's economy.

But shortly after release from her latest round of house arrest last November, Suu Kyi indicated her support for responsible tourism. Her senior party colleague, Win Tin, has also publicly welcomed individual tourists rather than the officially organized package tours which observers say mostly benefit the country's rulers.

Despite its cautious welcome of foreign tourists, which came almost two months after the nominal civilian government came into office, the NLD—which is now officially banned—also highlighted various negative effects related to the tourist industry.

“Local populations have been displaced, often without compensations or satisfactory relocation, to make way for construction of hotels and other tourist facilities,” the announcement said.

“To make matters worse, forced labor is used for some construction projects. The net result is its economic hardship exacerbated by the abrupt breakdown of a traditional way of life and gross violation of basic human rights,” it added.

“While the callous exploitation of sex tourists presents an obvious evil, thoughtless practices such as the indiscriminate distribution of money or gifts that have made habitual beggars or children in some communities do not receive enough attention.”

Soe Win, a Rangoon-based politician who contributed to the NLD statement said: “Should the government and all players including investors in this tourist enterprise take responsibility, respect ethics and preserve the ecology, we would readily embrace tourism.”

Even with the political opposition welcoming foreign tourists to the country, several factors—Burma's lack of infrastructure, the military's tight control and bureaucracy, longstanding civil war in many border areas—continue to raise the question: how can Burma attract visitors to the country?

There are nearly 600 hotels, guest houses or resorts across Burma, and some 6,000 licensed tour guides, according to government data. But the country has highly restricted Internet access, credit cards are all but unknown, and transportation is slow and unreliable.

And, Burma's tourist figures pale when compared to neighboring Thailand, which regularly receives some 14 million visitors a year. Vietnam receives about four million, while about two million visit Cambodia and Laos. During 2009-10, Burma received just 200,000 visitors.

Correction: May 26, 2011

In its online report 'NLD Condemn Tourism in Burma,' (Tuesday, May 24), The Irrawaddy misinterpreted the NLD's statement on tourism released on May 20, 2011.

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Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Ursus Wrote:
"Erik, I esteem your decent comments and appreciate your opinion. Your fairness is light-years ahead of myanmar patriot’s!"

DON'T BE PATHETIC!We have courage to call a spade a spade.Bashing Burmese government as a mantra is not fairness.It is stupid!
You need to analyse root causes. Besides, change cannot take place overnight.

During Fargaung ShuMaung's era, Burmese were not allowed to leave the country:it was a big prison.New military regime opened the doors and liberalise the economy, getting rid of socialism.Burma lost the best brains in the 60s because of ShuMaung, with grave consequences.It is lack of knowledge, knowhow and skills that is impeding progress.
Patience is a virtue.Freedom of speech is important.Govt needs guidance.

Ursus Wrote:
Erik, I esteem your decent comments and appreciate your opinion. Your fairness is light-years ahead of myanmar patriot’s!
Now let me question your sentence:
"But if you have been to Burma regularly the last couple of years there is no denying that on the ground things are changing for the better.”

What do you mean by "on the ground"?
It’s hard to see anything that changed for the better, except for the chosen ones.
Still no freedom of speech and opinion!
Internet censorship has increased.
Political prisoners remain behind bars.
Child soldiers, forced labour, not solved!
Schools for the disadvantaged, operated by the NLD and NGO’s are forced to close.
AIDS victims don’t get help from government, only from NLD and NGO’s.

We observe increased human rights abuse in ethnic areas, such as burning villages, destroying of crops, torture, rape of women and children by the tatmadaw and so on. Genocide continues.

I will appreciate if you can give me some samples of the "changes for the better". Thanks!

Erik Wrote:
Ursus, to elaborate on ASSK and the NLD. Almost all younger democrats I speak to in Burma (even inside the NLD) are unhappy with how ASSK is using her potential power/influence. She has no strategy. There is a big network of people (the NLD) loyal to her personally. That's the only potential weapon that the democrats have. But ASSK is in the way. It's a big dilemma. She is not bold nor daring, like her father.

What also irritates me is that the NLD office is now like a royal court of the old days. Whoever is close to the Lady is using this privileged position to the full extent. Everything gravitates around her. Even people like Win Tin and Nyan Win said that they were not doing anything with the NLD, just upkeeping the party until ASSK got out. That has nothing to do with democracy. The party should never be a personal vehicle only.

Erik Wrote:
Ursus wrote: "Erik, as I understand you, you think the NLD is useless and not effective?"

I think they are ineffective as a political party. That they are doing valuable ngo work is commendable of course. Although you shouldn't overestimate the scale.

But we should stop thinking ASSK is a politician and is helping Burma forward. In fact the NLD was played by the regime for their own advantage. And the NLD leaders fell for it and did exactly what the junta wanted, weakening the rest of the democratic opposition.

With regards to the junta, yes, there has been 50 years of mismanagement of the economy and loads of repression. The current government is nowhere near democratic. But if you have been to Burma regularly the last couple of years there is no denying that on the ground things are changing for the better. Slowly. The army fears its own people. This is their way to change the country and save their skins.

Ursus Wrote:
Erik, as I understand you, you think the NLD is useless and not effective?

I see what they (NLD) have done since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house-arrest. All the social work for the poor, the schools, education for the poor, help for AIDS victims and sick people is thousandfold more than the junta made in the past 20 years. And that was in a half a year only!

In fact the junta has done absolutely nothing, just look at the health care system, lacking education for the poor, etc.

Do you you agree, or can't you see what I am saying?

Maung Maung Than Wrote:
Thanks Irrawaddy team for raising this issue and making instant correction on NLD's statement about reviewing tourism boycott. I first noticed the breaking news from your online report " NLD condemn Tourism in Burma" . I wondered why it would be a big deal if NLD made a statement just repeating the ills of tourism and calling for boycott. Then, I saw the original statement in Burma on facebook where I realised there were some misinterpreting in your well-read article. Its a turning point in the strategy of the most important political force, NLD. By making correction, I think it show the professionalism and the spirit of service you present to the readers. Thank You..

Erik Wrote:
TinAungHla wrote: "I also would like to condemn some of negative commentators here wth the strongest terms possible who label ASSK as evil or traitor woman."

Right, she is not evil nor a traitor. I don't doubt her good intentions. ASSK is not an effective politician either, though. Can hardly call her a politician. And the NLD? If they don't take part in the political process and act like an NGO, should we call this a political party?

The NLD and ASSK are going nowhere. They were outplayed by the military. After they became unlawful they were only allowed to continue because it robbed the NDF of potential (active) members and voters. Divide and rule. Smart move by the military. Dumb NLD-leaders that they didn't see how they were used... They did exactly what the military hoped the would do. And now they are bleeding them to death.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Factchecker Wrote:

Does anyone have a link to this 5-page report by the NLD? I would really like to get the details to their stance.
RESPONSE: Stuff NLD. Usurper of 88 generations. The fighting peacock belongs to the patriotic democratic students who gave up their lives. We honour them. SuuKyi and her stupid followers hijacked the symbol aand try to dupe the people inot believeing that NLD started with the anti-British, anit-colonail movement of years ago. We have recorded their lies.
Stuff Suu Kyi!

TinAungHla Wrote:
Personally, I would like to see more and more foreign tourists visiting my country especially my native land Arakan and then push the ajared door itself over time by its way. Let foreign toursts witness bad things of turn-coat military regime and good things of innocent people while their money contributing to livelihood and intellectual development of grass-root and down-trodden people. I also would like to condemn some of negative commentators here wth the strongest terms possible who label ASSK as evil or traitor woman. Down, down with you guys!!!

Dave Wrote:
Full marks for correcting the original, although you should've been more careful in the first place - you're journos after all. Let's see if New Light of Mm follow your lead!

Snoopy Wrote:
I welcome eco-tourism in Myanmar. Eco-tourism helps preserve natural environments in the country. It is healthy, educational and spiritual too. It creates jobs for the citizens, at the same time it respects the eco-system. Myanmar should be proud of its eco-balance in the country. State TV and newspaper, as well as private journals, should promote the education about eco-tourism, so that the local people participate in greening, lushing and beautifying the country. You can help by planting trees on your birthday.

Zaw Myo Aung Wrote:
Don't u think "CONDEMN" is such a strong and inappropriate word...
I hope your are not deliberately making wrong .....
Please be advised to make revision on word usage so that general public and international community wouldn't adopt the wrong concept and impression....


On Tuesday, May 24, 2010, The Irrawaddy published an article titled 'NLD Condemn Tourism in Burma'. Which was inaccurate and misquoted the National League for Democracy on several points. We apologize to the NLD for these errors, and will publish a revised version of the party's statement on our online version on Thursday, May 26, 2010.

Derek Tonkin Wrote:
I have posted the English (3 page) and Burmese (5 page) versions on the Network Myanmar website. I share ASSK's concerns about the environment and the need for sustainable tourism, but allegations about forced labour still being used and cronyism in a hitherto loss-making industry are easy to refute.

Erik Wrote:
Goodwin wrote: "The average Burmese causes more damage to the environment than the average tourist" is totally untrue and is irrelevant with the main purpose of this article, which shed light on the abuse of human rights on tourism projects."

Do you think the regime can do more bad in isolation or with tourists and western business within its borders as onlookers?

You know the answer.

Another thing is that at least Western tourists come prepared and are very aware of their actions and the implications. Mostly they will try to spend their money with locals, not the government.

And my point about (ordinary) Burmese not caring about the environment still stands. Survival comes first, environmental issues are way down the list.

goodwin Wrote:
"The average Burmese causes more damage to the environment than the average tourist" is totally untrue and is irrelevant with the main purpose of this article, which shed light on the abuse of human rights on tourism projects.

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
Erik, You are absolutely right. How strange that you have much better understanding than some of our treasonous, pig-headed Panglongists, hell bent on carrying out the legacy of evil Clement Attlee: divide-and-rule and leave behind a society at war, retarding political and social progress; and worse, honouring the evil Fargaung Sun Maung, and now evil traitor woman Mrs. Michael Aris, who has no right to the name Aung San Suu Kyi. As simple as that.

Traditionally, Burmese people were very aware of environment, even respecting trees and plants.Panglong legacy was followed by BSPP communist, stupid legacy. Limited minds of the anti-govt, anti-Burma traitors simply fail to see the sequences of events.

Myanmar Parrots Wrote:
Ursus, I take the liberty to describe your point #1 a bit more detailed:

We have evidence that child abuse such as child rape and child torture by the tatmadaw in front of their parents is still common in ethnic areas.

We have evidence that underage children are forced to join the army and are often used as porters and minesweepers.

I think most tourists receive these information from their travel agents and decide to go somewhere else.

Factchecker Wrote:
Does anyone have a link to this 5-page report by the NLD? I would really like to get the details to their stance.

Wunna Nyaing Wrote:
Tourism should not be condemned as a polluting activity in Burma. Its impact on environment is small compared to the impact of activities like mining, timber, agriculture using fertilisers, and so on. Let's not forget tourism brings jobs and incomes to local people (and not just to the government). It also helps Burmese people get some news from abroad and communicate with people from foreign countries. It helps open minds. In fact, with the growing concern for environment in Western countries, tourism might be one of the way to teach Burmese people how to take care of the environment. Better to encourage tourism in Western countries than to let Myanmar be flooded by Chinese tourists, who could not care less about the environment. Finally, the more tourists there are in the country, the less opportunities there will be for the government to violate human rights without people and media noticing.

rufus plungemongrel Wrote:
If the NLD really wanted to “create benefits that develop industry and improve the economy of the country” it would abandon its counterproductive policy on sanctions, unless it feels comfortable with tourist developments funded by Chinese companies rather than those from Western countries (which are beholden to shareholders). The NLD is apparently ignorant of the job opportunities and revenue generated by tourism in Thailand, where the industry is among the top five foreign income earners. If the NLD wanted to demonstrate its welcome if belated concern about the environment in Myanmar/Burma it should focus its attention on ridding the country of its ubiquitous littering problem.

U Tin Wrote:
Amazing logic!

Myanmar Patriots Wrote:
1. What a pathetic propaganda: just proves a bunch of disloyal and misguided people clutching the last straw for popularity.
2. Who will support their stance? No one but themselves - and the traitor woman.
3. NLD is not the main opposition party; it is defunct; it has been dissolved. Had it participated in the elections, it would have the legitimacy of being a registered and recognised political party.
4. Look at the seating arrangements of the Parliament; we are practising non-adversarial style of debate, which is Burmese in character, quite unlike the two-party system. Consequently,
5. Legislation will be based on merit of the case rather than the majority votes, which in fact is a good thing. Because, even an individual member parliament can have great impact on the issues provided he is intelligent and makes sense to the rest.

Dr.Myo.THI-HA Wrote:
Suu Kyi is Burma's main the most destructive and dangerous British citizen woman. Very clear.

Warning to Suu Kyi and her followers: As you are a traitor who always trying to destroy our country (create civil war, destroy economy,) you must be sent to death penalty by 60M of Myanmar people. No time left for you..stupid woman.

Justice has to be done for Suu Kyi.

Ursus Wrote:
There are many reasons why tourists stay out of this wonderful country:

1. Burmese junta and her Tatmadaw is the main reason because of human rights violations across the country.

2. Forced labour for the building and construction of hotels and roads.

3. Illegal expropriation of farmers land.

4. Lacking infrastructure. Tourists nowadays travel with credit cards instead of cash on security reasons.

5. No access or censored internet access and ban on cell phones

If the Burmese junta really wants to increase the number of tourists they have to change their mind and politics which doesn't seem realistic.

However if it changes, I hope for Burma's future that they try to establish "soft and eco-tourism". We can see the results in neighbouring countries like Thailand to what it leads if they boost tourism at any price.
But again, tourists do not like to visit countries with a regime that abuses human-rights of their own People.

Ko Ko Lay Wrote:
Good point. Keep digging Thein Sein Gov's violations in every aspect in our motherland.

Erik Wrote:
It might be so that tourism has negative side effects. But lets not forget that the average Burmese causes more damage to the environment than the average tourist (who brings in money and jobs too).

Every time I visit Burma I am quite appalled at the ignorance. Most people just throw away everything on the street. Burma's streets and neighbourhoods are some of the dirtiest in the world.

Instead of pointing fingers at foreigners all the time the opposition should focus on educating people at home.

I think economical development and western engagement will do more for Burma than 20 years of isolation and confrontation.

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