Nov 20, 2009

Shan: Shan Women’s Group Reveals Dark Side Of Tourism

Active ImageA Shan women’s group revealed the “dark side” and the ugly face of tourism promotion in Shan State by the Burmese military junta in their latest ‘guidebook’ released on Tuesday.  


Below is an article published by Mizzima:

The Shan Women Action Network (SWAN) on Tuesday launched a guidebook “Forbidden Glimpses of Shan State”. It gives tourists an insight and an alternative view of Shan State by providing a pictorial exposé of the deliberate neglect, destruction and reinvention of local cultural and historical sites.

A majority of war-torn Shan State is off limits for tourists, but some areas are open to foreign travellers. Tourists are only permitted to visit three areas: Lashio road in the north, Taunggyi-Inlay Lake area in the south-west, and the route from Tachilek to Kengtung and Mong La in the east.

The guidebook pointed out that there are a number of things that the junta does not want tourists to see. These include; “over 150 Burmese infantry battalions deployed in the state which are authorized to live on the land: confiscation of farms, extortion and taxing villagers, and requisitioning free labour. Various ethnic groups continue to resist the regime in the hope of getting justice and equal rights for their people.”

The guide depicts how Burma’s military regime is erasing the last vestiges of palaces of the 34 former Shan principalities. This includes the demolition of the historic Kengtung Palace in 1991 to make way for a garish modern hotel.

The destruction of remnants of former Shan self-rule contrasts with the regime’s construction of new monuments that extol ancient Burmese kings and numerous replicas of the “Shwedagon” pagodas across Shan State.  Photographs of these lavish structures are juxtaposed with images of historic local Shan temples that have been desecrated and left derelict during the Burmese Army’s ongoing scorched earth campaigns.

“We have not only been robbed of our rights, lands and resources but the regime is also robbing us of our culture and history,” said SWAN spokesperson Moan Kaein in the statement released on Tuesday.  “We want visitors to open their eyes to the repression going on around them, even in the cultural sites they are visiting.”

The book also depicts scenic areas off-limits to visitors, which are threatened by the regime’s development plans, and locations of Shan jails where prominent Burmese political prisoners are being incarcerated far from their homes.

The group added that the regime has consistently refused to engage in meaningful political dialogue with these ethnic groups in Shan State. Instead it is carrying out massive anti-insurgency campaigns to try and crush them.

Due to the suppression, from 1996 to 1998, over 300,000 villagers from southern and central Shan State were forced to relocate. Many sought refuge in Thailand, while troops are licensed to arrest, torture, rape and kill villagers suspected of supporting the resistance, the report stated.