Myanmar is the land of invisible oppression. On the surface it appears like any third world country. Shops are open, children are playing and everyone seems to be going about their normal business. But looks can be very decieving.
The Burmese Government which ironically calls itself the State Ruling Peace and Development Council is an authoritarian military regime. Unfortunately 50 million Burmese live in a state of fear which puts Orwell to shame. Thousands have lost their lives, many have been imprisoned their only crime being anti government, hundreds of thousands have been forced into labour camps, many to build the tourist infrastructure, and such is the control over the people that the huge network of informers and secret police makes any kind of resistance virtually futile. All media is censored. Much of the country is restricted to travel in, people are imprisoned and tortured without trial, and a resource rich country is being run into the ground by a bunch of fat Generals. For the very intelligent and sophisticated Burmese people it's a tragedy of Orwellian proportions. The only taste of democracy they recieved was when Aung San Sui Kyi's party won the election in 1998 with a staggering 94 % of the vote. The only thing that changed with the election was the oppostion party crackdowns, illegal imprisonment and house arrest of pro democracy leader Sui Kyi. Interestingly she had condemned tourists visiting Burma as it brings in money for the authoritarian regime. However, there are other schools of thought, which we belong too, which is that the only people who are suffering out of this blockade is the Burmese people themselves. we never met anyone on the streets who was supportive of the blockade and the taxi drivers, restaurant owners, elephant mahouts, and shopkeepers who recieved our money all were very glad. We met people whose monthly income was about 3 dollars. Moreover, I strongly believe that you don't help a country by cutting it off from the rest of the world because some day the regime will fall. Surely it's better to help educate the people about the outside world and let them know that people out there havent forgotten about them.
Not that I'm saying Sui Kyi hasnt achieved a huge amount and is pehaps the greatest role model for the Burmese one can find. I just believe that with more knowledge and power the Burmese will surely be able to help themselves. It's all very similar to the Google in China argument. Surely a little knowledge is better than none at all. Also, If there are more tourists it becomes harder for the government to hide what it's doing. And lets face it how will they know about our lovely new shiny toys like digital cameras if we dont go.