Security Concerns in Burma
The flow of media reports documenting the high hopes and challenges for the upcoming tourist season in Burma came to an abrupt halt as the country was rocked by a series of bombings targeting hotels, restaurants and public spaces. Major international media focused on a bomb blast in a bathroom of the Traders hotel – one of the biggest hotels in Rangoon. This blast injured an American woman and caused the evacuation of the hotel.
However, other bombs exploded or were found and defused in various parts of Burma starting from Friday, 11th October. Two people died in the Taungoo Township, Pegu Division and more were injured. This article features a map of all the affected areas. It also reports that 4 persons were arrested in connection with the bombings. However, another explosion occurred in Shan state after the arrests.
In response to these events, foreign tourists reportedly began cancelling their bookings for Burma. This resulted in some difficulties for local travel agencies. Executive director of one such agency explained: “When tourists cancel their trips, we have to refund them money but at the same time, we have already paid fees in advance for booking at hotels and airlines and in the end, we are the ones who face the most losses.”
If you are planning a trip to Burma and wondering about how to react to the recent events, you can check out travel advisory from the embassy of your country (or review English language travel advisories from the embassies of the United States of America and the Great Britain ). Of course, EcoBurma continues to monitor the situation and posts up-to-date articles and resources on its facebook page.
The temples of Bagan are up to 1,000 years old and one of the must-see places in Burma. The site would like to acquire UNESCO World Heritage site status but insensitive renovation during the rule of the military junta are making it difficult to achieve this goal. After an earthquake in 1976, “the restoration work was done quickly and cheaply to maximise the profits of local building firms” and using unsuitable materials, such as modern red bricks. Now, according to one engineer, the best thing is simply to wait for another earthquake and do a better job a second time around.
Local children, however, are not waiting for anything – not even to finish a primary school – and are attempting to make money as tourist guides around the complex. They work in a shadow of possible fines and arrests after local authorities prohibited child guides from working in the complex. “They said we are disturbing the pilgrims. That’s why we are not allowed to come here in the morning. Even now, if they see us, they would arrest us and detain us for two days,” says Aung Aung, one of the children at the temple and adds that he can make between 2 and 8 dollars a day, an income that his family desperately needs.
A group of teachers from local schools is concerned, however, that the children are missing vital lessons in school and that some worrying habits, such as glue sniffing, are spreading among the young guides. They are trying to bring the children back to school, fighting an uneven battle with economic needs of the children’s families.
The article will have you asking some tough questions about child labor in such circumstances.
Social Media and Responsible Tourism
We wrap up this week’s Round Up with an article that explores how social media can contribute to responsible tourism. The author, Frederic Gonzalo, highlights three points: 1. Travelers and locals have a voice and power; 2. Locals can take initiatives, 3. Higher potential for meaningful connections.
This, after all, is also why EcoBurma is here. And if Gonzalo’s article inspires you to be more active in promoting responsible tourism through social media, you can start by becomming a storyteller at EcoBurma or sharing your experiences with (ir)responsible travel to Burma at Myanmar Tourism Watch.
Have a great week!Weekly EcoBurma Roundup #46: Security Concerns, Bagan, Social Media and Responsible Tourism ,