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Tourism Guide Letter

Dear [tourism promoter in Burma]:

I am writing to you out of concern for your decision to include Burma as part of your luxury tour package. I am sure that once you become aware of the ethical implications regarding tourism in Burma, you will reconsider including Burma in this package and future tours until democracy and human rights are restored.

As you know, Burma is ruled by a brutal military regime, which has been continuously condemned by the United Nations’ Commission on Human Rights and International Labour Organization (ILO) for its widespread human rights abuses. This year’s UN Commission on Human Rights resolution once again condemned Burma for:

“The deterioration of the human rights situation and the continuing pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights in Myanmar, including extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, inhuman treatment, mass arrests, forced labour, forced relocation and denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement.”

The ILO issued an unprecedented resolution in November 2000 calling on its members, which include Canada, to review all relations with Burma so as to ensure that they in no way foster forced labour there. The tourism industry, like all other industries in Burma, has a responsibility to respond to this request.

Burma’s Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has repeatedly requested tourists not to visit her country at this time as this lends support and legitimacy to the country’s illegal military regime. Upon arrival in Burma, tourists are compelled to pay $ 200 US up front in exchange for Burmese Foreign Exchange Certificates.

Tourists further support this regime by paying for the use of military-owned hotels and tourist sites, many of which have been built with the use of forced labour. The ILO’s 1998 report estimated that hundreds of thousands of Burmese men, women and children are forced to labour on construction projects, including those linked to tourism each year. Therefore it is clear that tourism not only supports the military regime, but also perpetuates the junta’s use of forced labour.

As you know, the NLD, led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82% of the seats in the country’s 1990 elections, but the military still refuses to hand over power to them. The official position of the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi remains the same it has been since 1996. They urge tourists to come and visit Burma only once it has attained democracy. In the words of Aung San Suu Kyi:

“Burma will always be here and when it is democratic it will be a place that I think tourists will enjoy visiting. They will [then] need have no qualms or guilt feelings.”

We therefore urge you to immediately end this promotion and to exclude Burma from any future luxury tour packages We also strongly recommend that you publish your reasons for taking such action. We look forward to hearing back from you on this important matter.


c.c.: Canadian Friends of Burma

Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Bill Graham


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