Simon Calder

In a few weeks' time the rain will be pouring down on the scarlet stone of the fort in Mandalay. Fat, tropical raindrops will cascade from the 1,200 steps that link the pretty pagodas stretching up the holy hill beyond. Not the ideal time to visit Burma.

By November, though, the military government will be welcoming thousands of tourists, assisted by dozens of British travel companies. The tour operator Steppes East, for example, urges travellers to visit soon. "For anyone contemplating a trip to Myanmar, or Burma as it is perhaps still better known, go now before it changes too dramatically... it will only be a few years before the charm of colonial Burma is replaced by the less attractive side of western investment." There is a downside, we learn, but nothing serious: "Some hotels outside the capital are a little tired".

Some of the Burmese people may be a little tired, too, as Vivien Morgan reported in the Independent last year: "This is the reality of life in Burma for hundreds and thousands of people - forced into unpaid work to polish and prettify the country for a tourist boom in 1996.

"In scenes reminiscent of a biblical Hollywood epic, they labour from dawn to dusk. The prisoners no longer wear leg-irons (though they still do in parts of the country off the tourist map)."

These pages carry travellers' tales from all around the world, but for the moment you will not read about Burma. This is not for lack of expertise; my colleague Harriet O'Brien, Travel Writer of the Year, was in Burma two months ago. She knows the country intimately and will, at some happier point, resume writing about this entrancing country. But while the murderous regime that this week arrested 200 pro-democracy supporters continues to oppress its people in the name of tourism, we will not publish editorial that implies this is a good country to visit.

Six years ago this weekend, the National League for Democracy won a clear election victory. The ruling junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, refused to give up power. Faced with international outrage and a consequent loss of aid, the regime turned to tourism for economic salvation. Visit Myanmar Year 1996 is the traveller's chance to bankroll bankrupt totalitarians.

One powerful argument in favour of tourism rests with its power to spread ideas and thereby ease repression. Another is that visitors ease economic privation among ordinary people; Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world. But Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, is urging tourists to shun "Visit Myanmar Year". And we respect her judgement.

So how can we possibly justify running travel stories on other countries where human rights abuses have taken place: Guatemala, China, and - on this very page - North Cyprus?

There is no easy answer. We take seriously our responsibility to the people of the places we write about, and debate minutely the ethics of encouraging travel to particular nations. Mostly, we conclude that the human benefits of individual contacts outweigh the moral costs of supporting reprehensible regimes. But not in a nation where tourism is blatantly built upon human suffering.

News
Pro-Russia rebels guard a train containing the bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17 crash in Torez, Ukraine
i100
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
News
people
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Rock to play DC character in superhero film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Damon Albarn is starting work on a new West End musical
artsStar's 'leftfield experimental opera' is turning mainstream
Life and Style
Paul and his father
artsPaul Carter wants to play his own father in the film of his memoirs
Sport
Ben Stokes trudges off after his latest batting failure for England as Ishant Sharma celebrates one of his seven wickets
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
Members of the public are invited to submit their 'sexcapades' to Russell T Davies' new series Tofu
tv
News
Sky's Colin Brazier rummages through an MH17 victim's belongings live on air
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game
arts + ents'The Imitation Game' stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Legal Cashier - Oxford

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Legal Cashier - Oxford We have an excellent ...

    Legal Cashier - Oxford

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Legal Cashier - Oxford We have an excellent ...

    Production and Merchandising Assistant

    £19,000 - £21,000: Sauce Recruitment: A contemporary, original wholesale distr...

    PPC Account Managers

    £25k - £30k (DOE): Guru Careers: Two expert PPC Account Managers are needed to...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor