Burma travel loophole tightened

Tourism Concern has welcomed the closure of a legal loophole targeted at operators offering tours of Burma.

Director Tricia Barnett said the Burma/Myanmar (Financial Restrictions) Regulations 2009 makes it an offence for UK firms, including tour operators, to provide financial benefits for prominent members of the country’s military regime and their associates. It is one of a series of measures deployed by the European community in a bid to force Burma’s military junta to introduce democratic reform in the country.

While Barnett admitted it is hard to enforce the legislation because of the difficulty in proving who is financially benefitting from tourism, she hoped it would deter UK operators from dealing with the regime.

She added: “This issue highlights the opaque, complex overlap between government and business interests in Burma, which makes it impossible to travel to the country without the military regime financially benefiting. “Tourism Concern welcomes these positive steps by the government, which signals its recognition of the important role that tourism plays in propping up Burma’s oppressive regime.”

The change in legislation comes as a row broke out over comments allegedly made by Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi concerning tourism.

The Daily Telegraph last week reported Suu Kyi had changed her stance against tourism, instead claiming it could benefit the country providing tourists stayed away from state-owned properties.

However, the UK supporters’ organisation of the opposition, the National League for Democracy – Liberated Areas, has denied any change in stance by the party.

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