This week, we explore the effects of increasing numbers of tourists in Mandalay and the issues of child labor and children’s rights in the face of tourism, ending with a light note on the Top 10 places to visit in Myanmar
Since the reopening of Burma’s borders last year, there has been a continuous influx of visitors keen to discover the country’s unspoiled landscapes and traditional cultures. Indeed, retaining the sustainable and efficient growth of Myanmar’s tourism industry is of utmost concern. There are major challenges to contend with, in light of the sudden upsurge in mass tourism.
In the former capital of Mandalay, “so many [tourists] have come that [it] is putting a strain on a local service sector not yet developed to cope with the influx”. Such pressure is already being felt and experienced at various levels: accommodation prices have gone up, there is a lack of tourist guides to meet demand, with traditional architecture at the mercy of “poor or non-existent conservation policies”, among others.
There is a general agreement among tourism authorities that the situation in Mandalay is dramatically deteriorating and needs to be addressed.
The following article highlights another pressing issue: the privatization and commercial exploitation of the historic Mandalay Palace complex. Indeed, “several firms were invited to submit a tender to manage commercial exploitation and ticket sales at the famed Palace complex, […] a major tourism draw for Mandalay.”
Although the improvement of tourism facilities is certainly necessary, this privatization of historical and protected areas is quite worrisome rather than reassuring. Aside from the increase in entrance fees, the use of historical areas for commercial means is often done without respect for local, natural and human conditions. As mentioned in the article, “previously foreign visitors could visit the whole palace area for US $ 10 but as of June 9th, foreigners are expected to shell out the same amount just to see the main palace building alone.”
Proponents of privatization argue that this is done in the public’s best interest since more often than not, governments lack technical and financial resources to manage the growing demands of tourists. However, aside from the irreversible loss of authenticity, such commercial policies may have a very detrimental impact on the environment, not to mention the social conditions of local communities.
Another fallout is rubbish littering Myanmar[/Burma].“ Travel companies have accused Amarapura residents and local tourists of carelessly dropping litter into Taungthaman Lake, beside the picturesque U Bein Bridge.” While such littering could seriously damage the expected lifetime of the site, travel companies worry about the “impact litter will have on the country’s image as a tourist destination.” Locals also complain Consequently, they have started to push for anti-littering laws to be enforced, as well as the implementation of educational campaigns. On the other hand, locals complain that “the problem is exacerbated by poor garbage collection near the lake.”
Child labor continues to be a problem in Burma with the Burmese authorities assuming the right to requisition children as soldiers. Such violation of children’s rights has earned criticisms and uproar from the international community.
This article denounces another terrible side of this disturbing situation “in Burma, it is not at all unusual for a child to serve you tea at a café.”
Children are toiling as domestic servants and in shops, bars, restaurants or behind the wall of workshops or in plantations, away from the eyes of the public.
“While the law forbids children under 15 from working, and only allows those aged 15 to 18 to work four hours a day, it is routinely ignored.” In many cases, it is the child’s family who are to blame. Unable to pay for education and often living in rural societies, they send their children to an urban center so that he/she can support and help the rest of the family. However, upon arrival, it rarely goes as planned. “These children are exploited, and suffering”: working hours often exceed twelve hours, without weekends nor holidays, with paltry wages if it exists.
One of the key ways to combat child labor is through education. It must be treated with utmost priority and must not stand in the way of good quality, top-notch education.
This article tells the stories of some of these kids. We strongly encourage you to read it at length. It is essential that officials and the public call into question these human rights abuses. It is equally important to raise awareness among travelers of the plight of so many of Burma’s children. No one can ignore the needs and the rights of these young people who need the greatest protection.
Inspiration for travel to Burma
Last but not least, our last article introduces you the Top 10 places to visit in Myanmar:, from Rangoon to Inle Lake, including features on hill trekking and the Chinlone Festival. Enjoy the accompanying tips, portraits and stunning photographs of these top hotspots!
Have a good week!Weekly EcoBurma Roundup #42: Focus on Mandalay, Child Labor in Burma,