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

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
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
  • Get to the point
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 Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living