Travel piece ignored Burma's problems

[This letter to the Editor appeared in the 2000 December 5 issue of the Edmonton Journal.]

I was disappointed to open the Journal on Saturday and bump into the full page article "Road to Mandalay" (Journal, Nov. 4).

The Journal, and in particular writer Satya Das, has carried news a number of times over the past few years about the terrible assault on democracy and human rights by the military dictators who remain in power in Burma. Tens of thousands of ordinary people have died, suffered torture, been imprisoned on false charges, and had to flee as refugees over the years this illegitimate government has remained in power.

One of the few ways to try to influence this despicable regime into behaving in a more acceptable way is to comply with the often-repeated requests of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to entirely boycott this regime. An important part of this is to absolutely avoid tourism in Burma, or as the November 4 article identified it, Myanmar.

I hope that Journal editors will recognize a responsibility not to encourage Canadians to make choices for travel that provide support and legitimacy to a government that has been condemned by democratic leaders in every part of the world. Even our leisure and tourism carries moral responsibilities.

At the very least, the article should have included additional information about the plea to boycott Burma/Myanmar by the properly elected legislators of the nation.

It is not acceptable in our global society to act as if some aspects of our lives can be lived without ethical implications.

Writer Bob Riche may have only noticed the beautiful pagodas, slender lavender-robed nuns and the teak bridge but he was never far from machine-gun toting soldiers forcing people to build roads by hand or arresting young students for listening to BBC newscasts.

He may have enjoyed the magnificent buffet luncheon on the luxury cruise ship, but along the shores there is more hunger than there has ever been in the country's history and it is the fault of a corrupt government more interested in deals with drug lords of the Golden Triangle than basic health care and nutrition for children.

Jim Gurnett, Sherword Park

Date last changed: 2007 September 25

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