A specialist operator has sought to assure those due to travel to Myanmar (Burma) to seek advice and look for information beyond the headlines amid reports of widespread ethic cleansing of Muslim Rohingya by the army in Rakhine state.
Nick Pulley, managing director of Selective Asia, warned that much of the information emerging from the country was conflicting and that the areas where the company sends British travellers is safe.
His comments came as UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said alleged attacks by security forces on Rohingya villagers were completely unacceptable. The army says it is fighting militants and denies targeting civilians.
The UN Security Council called for urgent steps to end the violence.
Some 379,000 Rohingyas have reportedly fled to Bangladesh since violence began last month. Whole villages have burned down.
In its latest travel advisory for Myanmar, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “In late August and early September 2017, security operations in northern Rakhine have involved the clearance of villages and mass displacement of populations.
“There has also been burning and looting of property. There’s a significant risk of intercommunal violence in Rakhine state and international NGOs can also be the target of hostility.”
Selective Asia operates tailor-made tours to Myanmar and its team regularly visits the countries it covers.
“As always in these circumstances a decision to travel is down to the individual,” Pulley said. “The advice and the information we’re currently receiving tells us Myanmar remains open and welcoming tourists but we will naturally talk to anyone currently booked with us, or thinking of booking, about their plans.”
Pulley, who has travelled extensively in the country for more than 20 years and has spent time in the crisis area, said: “The conflict in Rakhine has been in play since British colonial times and has raised its head on numerous occasions since.
“We’re well aware most of the information coming out of Myanmar is focused on Rakhine but at present we have no update on what’s already out there, much of which is conflicting, and regrettably consistently informed and balanced information seems to be in short supply. The situation is, of course, multi layered, and a scarcity of neutral parties being heard may only be adding to the confusion and lack of trust.”
He added: “Whilst no-one should ever be seen to brush matters under the table, we would like to confirm all the areas to which we send clients remain safe and our local partners, with whom we are in contact daily, inform us operationally things remain unaffected.
“The advice of the British government, as well as the governments of the United States and Japan, continues to be that travel to Myanmar, with the exception of specified areas deemed unsafe by relevant governments, remains as it has been and there are currently no advisory changes.
“There is a lot of ‘information’ coming out of Myanmar, much of which is extremely confusing.
“We’re providing clients with relevant reports from our local partners and suggesting they may like to refer to a broader range of news sources, such as The Irrawaddy magazine (irradwaddy.com) whose English language editor has more than once explained a hugely complex situation in his clear and informed dispatches.”