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NLD Welcomes Responsible Tourism to Burma , But Warns Against Abuses

Back in January I cautioned that it was probably premature to lift the travel boycott of since we had not heard directly what Aung San Suu Kyi though and the terms of her release from house arrest have not been negotiated. Read more

The Irrawaddy is published by a group of Burmese journalists living in exile in Thailand, an independent news media group respected in the region. On Tuesday May 24th (and corrected on May 26th) the Irrawaddy reported that  National League for Democracy (NLD) has said that it welcomes responsible tourism that does not cause human rights abuses and environmental degradation in the country.

�The NLD would welcome visitors who are keen to promote the welfare of the common people and the conservation of the environment and to acquire an insight into the cultural, political and social life of the country while enjoying a happy and fulfilling holiday in Burma,�

As the Irrawaddy reports this marks a major change in policy since the NLD called of a boycott in 1996. The critique of tourism remains trenchant  �Local populations have been displaced, often without compensations or satisfactory relocation, to make way for construction of hotels and other tourist facilities,� the announcement said.

�To make matters worse, forced labor is used for some construction projects. The net result is its economic hardship exacerbated by the abrupt breakdown of a traditional way of life and gross violation of basic human rights,� it added.

�While the callous exploitation of sex tourists presents an obvious evil, thoughtless practices such as the indiscriminate distribution of money or gifts that have made habitual beggars or children in some communities do not receive enough attention.�

Soe Win, a Rangoon-based politician who contributed to the NLD statement said: �Should the government and all players including investors in this tourist enterprise take responsibility, respect ethics and preserve the ecology, we would readily embrace tourism.�

Read more in the  Irrawaddy
 
In response, responsibletravel.com announced it has lifted the ban on Burma-based holidays from its website but urges the travel industry to act with care and avoid 'irresponsible' tourism development in the region. RT.com has urged the Burmese Government and newly formed Burmese Tourist Board to work with the NLD and local people to put a responsible tourism plan in place.

Read more about RT.com's response

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