Kate Simon: Tourism is a lame weapon against the Burmese junta

Travel View

It was good to hear Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader, giving the first of this year's Reith Lectures last week on the subject of "securing freedom". (Her second and final lecture will be broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday.)

The speeches were recorded in secret and smuggled out of Burma, but how long will the generals tolerate her speaking out? Last week, she was warned in a letter from the junta that any attempt to address supporters in a planned tour of the country could spark violence.

When the Nobel Peace laureate was released from house arrest last November, her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said it wanted to relax its tourism boycott, which started in 1996 in response to the dictatorship's tourism initiative, Visit Myanmar. The NLD said that it would seek to encourage individuals and small groups to gain a better understanding of the ongoing political and economic situation under the junta's rule, but remained resolute that visitors should not use large tour operators and cruise ships that contribute "significant revenue to the dictatorship". The Burma Campaign UK and Tourism Concern have been key yo conveying this message in Britain.

The NLD's cautious approach to tourism underlines the fact that though San Suu Kyi has been released, little else has changed in Burma. From time to time, the regime has felt obliged to respond to international criticism, hence the recent sham elections that it has sought to use to legitimise the dictatorship.

In reality, the generals continue to arm themselves to the teeth at the expense of the health and welfare of ordinary Burmese people. Also, human rights abuses, such as the forced removal of people from their homes and the incarceration and torture of more than 2,000 people for calling for democracy, continue unabated.

Spreading the word is a useful weapon in the armoury of the pro-democracy forces and tourism can provide some of the ammunition. But it will be mass defiance on the streets, of the kind we've already seen in the protests by students and intellectuals in 1988 and the monks in 2007, that finally topples this brutal dictatorship.

***

Who can blame Essex for indulging in a bit of rebranding. This county has suffered years of rubbish sexist jokes and now the Towies – a breed found across the UK, not just Essex, that prizes fame over integrity.

Anyone who has bothered to visit this corner of England will know there's more to it than post-war new towns and kiss-me-quick hats. Those who haven't will find plenty to explore, from Colchester's fine Roman remains to Constable Country in Dedham Vale and the Stour Valley.

So, considering how ignorant people often are about Essex, it seems to me that the local tourist authorities have come up with the perfect new name for the county's shoreline – the "Discovery Coast".

Do you have a travel issue? Email sundaytravel@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen