Myanmar plans to reopen to tourism in early 2022 – but who will go?

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Dozens of peace camps set up after 50 years of civil war remain in operation and persecution of Rohingya and other minorities continues

Myanmar is planning to reopen to tourism in early 2022. But who will go?

Getting there is a different matter. It remains difficult for tourists to cross Myanmar’s borders to the north and east, due to ethnic-based conflict that resulted in the creation of nearly 50,000 “peace camps” that house displaced communities. The camps are overseen by Myanmar’s military.

Myanmar’s Rohingya are facing a globalisation backlash Read more

Travellers will be able to cross the Shan state border into the northeastern Kayin state for hundreds of kilometres, all along the Kyaukpyu industrial development zone. The region is already host to a giant KFC restaurant and a Walmart shopping centre.

Permission is still needed to visit the remote Wa region, home to one of the world’s largest militias, the Burma Army faction led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband and confidant, Michael Aris.

The Myitsone border crossing in north-eastern Thailand. Photograph: Rob Kozlowski/Getty Images

The proxy government last week ordered additional people and refugees from Myanmar to move to an overcrowded area near the border, from where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been expelled after a wave of violence in 2016.

Around 1,500 people – mostly Hindus – are being transferred from Myitsone, now the most important crossing into Thailand, to Itta Mahal beach in Kayin, where the government is building a government hub.

“We hope the resettlement will be finished within three months. At the same time we are not hiding anything, we want to be very truthful,” Mae Kwei Win, the regional director of refugee management, told the Myanmar News Agency.

Some refugees say the Thai Thai government backs the transfer because of economic ties, while Thailand says the new hosts were reluctant to take them. The move is being viewed as a deliberate attempt to clear a path for tourists and other travel.

The repatriation of some Rohingyas to Myanmar was put on hold until October after a phone call between Suu Kyi and the UN’s top human rights official, warning it breached international law.

A screenshot from the Tripadvisor page of Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu Artisan Market. Photograph: Tripadvisor

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, did not take sides in the dispute, but said any plan to deport Rohingya from neighbouring Myanmar should be done by Myanmar’s government, not other countries.

Many Hmong, based in China and Thailand, and other ethnic minority groups have an allegiance to the Myanmar army, which is facing charges of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity for its response to the latest bout of violence between June 2017 and March 2018.

In western Shan state and northern Kayin, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been driven into neighbouring Bangladesh. Suu Kyi has not responded to the accusations of mass killings and gang rapes by her own security forces, which earned her international isolation and the Nobel peace prize.

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