Burma: Tourist Advice
- What advice they offer to British tourists planning to visit Burma.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, our travel advice says that the political situation remains unsettled; visitors to Burma can visit only officially designated areas; some ethnic insurgents remain active in Burma, particularly in border areas; and that visitors should seek medical advice before travelling. The full text of our latest travel advice for Burma can be found on the FCO website, on Ceefax or by telephoning our travel advice unit. We have drawn attention in Parliament, in correspondence and on our website to the views of Burmese democratic leaders that tourism to Burma is inappropriate at present. I have placed a copy of our travel advice in the Library of the House.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend very much for that reply. I am not sure how often the tabling of a Question in your Lordships’ House makes an immediate difference to what a government department does, but it seems to have happened in this case. Is my noble friend aware that I tabled my Question because I was concerned that, when I looked at it in December, the travel advice on Burma issued by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office contained no reference whatever to human rights? Will she confirm that the FCO’s website was changed last Friday so that, as she rightly says, the travel advice now includes a link to the letter by the late Minister of State, Derek Fatchett, to the chairman of ABTA in which he drew attention to the request from Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratic leader of Burma, that British tourists should not visit the country, as well as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office brief entitled Burma: Ten Years of Oppression?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can certainly confirm that my noble friend’s Question caused us to look at the two sites where information about Burma was entered. It was clear that a link between those two sites would ease the situation and make it easier for people to find out the full picture. Therefore, that link was arranged. I thank my noble friend for bringing the matter to our attention. However, all the information was available to those who wished to find it.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I welcome what the Minister has said to the House, but is she aware that many of the hotels and the tourist infrastructure in Burma have been built by slave labour, often involving in particular the Kareni people and others from different ethnic minorities, who have been forcibly exploited and many of whom have even died during the creation of that tourist infrastructure? Is she further aware that in the past five years in the Karen state alone, some 30,000 Kareni people have died, 300,000 have been displaced, and that clearly that amounts to genocide? I welcome what she said to her noble friend Lord Faulkner of Worcester. However, in reviewing the tourist policy, will she also review Her Majesty’s Government position so far as concerns economic sanctions in order to bring them into line with those of the United States Government? Will she agree that it would be better to follow the brave lead given by the young British national, James Mawdsley, in campaigning for democratic rights in Burma, rather than seeing Burma as a potential tourist destination?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, first, I join wholeheartedly with the noble Lord to say that we deplore the forced labour used in Burma. That has been a position upon which Her Majesty’s Government have been consistent. Forced labour is one of a large number of human rights violations in Burma. The report in 1998 by the International Labour Organisation highlighted the use of forced labour in Burma and made three recommendations for the regime to implement. Your Lordships will know that we have continued to pursue the matter. I believe that the position taken by Her Majesty’s Government in relation to unilateral financial sanctions is well known and there has been no change as far as concerns that policy. However, we have let no opportunity go by to make absolutely clear to the Burmese our revulsion at the oppressive nature of their regime. So far as concerns James Mawdsley, of course, we appreciate that he has chosen that particular way to demonstrate his dissent in relation to the Burmese Government. However, our Government wish to take those courses which are most likely to bring about productive results.