Anger at Kuoni's plans for Burma

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The Independent Online

Kuoni Group, the upmarket tour operator, is risking international condemnation by considering a return to holiday packages in Burma, which has an appalling human rights record.

Kuoni Group, the upmarket tour operator, is risking international condemnation by considering a return to holiday packages in Burma, which has an appalling human rights record.

The company, which has its headquarters in Switzerland, had won widespread applause last year when it withdrew all holiday offers to Burma. It did not appear in any of its 2003-04 brochures, but Kuoni is now looking again at Burma as a destination, although there has been little change in the country's political environment.

"Along with many other destinations not yet included in their various programmes, Burma is currently being evaluated by the Kuoni Group with regard to their 2004-05 programmes, but no decision has yet been taken," a spokeswoman for the company said. Kuoni's UK operation, however, has already decided not to offer holidays to Burma.

The move is sure to disappoint the Government, which is against any investment or support for the military dictatorship in Burma by UK companies. It has specifically asked all travel companies offering tours to Burma to cease. Mike O'Brien, the Foreign Office minister, said in February: "Many hotels and other tourism-related activities in Burma are linked to the military regime. Because there are investments by generals in the tourism industry, people who go on tourist trips to Burma are actively supporting the regime and enabling those generals to receive financial advantage from it." The EU has also asked travel companies to withdraw from Burma.

Burma Campaign UK, which shames companies that operate in Burma on a "dirty" list, yesterday condemned Kuoni's move. "We are very angry that Kuoni have broken their word," said Yvette Mahon, director of the Burma Campaign UK. "Than Shwe, the dictator of Burma, will be delighted by this news. Money from the tourists Kuoni takes to Burma will go straight into his pockets." Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma's democracy movement who is under house arrest by the regime, has asked for tourists to stay away.

The cruise company Carnival, owner of P&O, said yesterday that it was suspending all tours to the region indefinitely.

Burma Campaign UK will target Total Oil. Premier Oil has already pulled out, as has British American Tobacco.

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