More than a year after seizing power in a coup, Myanmar’s junta has hinted towards reopening the Southeast Asian country to tourism, in an attempt to revive the local travel economy. International flights are scheduled to resume from 17 April 2022 and the country is gearing up for a healthy influx of visitors. The administration has mandated that visitors be fully vaccinated and undergo a week-long quarantine following two RT-PCR tests.
But 30 years after the former ‘hermit kingdom’ opened to tourism after decades of isolation, a new directive has asked travellers to avoid coming to Myanmar.
Much like the global pandemic trend, the country closed its borders to travellers in 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But as travel resumed worldwide, Myanmar remained in isolation. Through 2020, the nation was caught in a frenzy with over 40,000 daily COVID-19 cases.
The following year saw 1,600 people killed by the military junta while over 12,500 others were detained, after February 2021 when Myanmar’s military overthrew the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Accounting for the human rights violations—kidnappings and killings by the military, food shortages and electricity blackouts—travel agents, resistance groups, old government officials and activists have encouraged tourists to avoid heading to Myanmar. The country is home to the World Heritage Sites of Bagan and Pyu Ancient Cities, in addition to several other historic sites including Mandalay and Yangon.
Chair of the Burma Humanitarian Mission and programme director of the charity Backpack Medics, Michael Isherwood has firmly stated: “I would not suggest anyone travels there”.
As the country’s economy stands on the brink of total economic collapse brought on by the constant humanitarian violations by the junta, it is estimated that any tourism will only aid the military.
Local travel agents warn of a collapse of the banking system and the lack of access to cash in Yangon, on top of regional lockdowns in Kayah state and Chin state where water shortage and electrical cut offs become a major challenge to tourists.
Muskaan Gupta travels with a camera that doesn't fret to capture touristy pictures and believes visiting local markets is the best way to unearth a city's gems and jewels. She is Junior Writer (Native Content) at National Geographic Traveller India.