Moral Dilemma Southeast Asia

Weighing in on the ethics of visiting Myanmar

OOOPS Back up cadets! This was intended to be posted before I got around to posting about Albania ūüôā



While I flashback to my trip to Myanmar, I remember some concerns raised by a few people I know. These weren’t from uneducated and isolated folks either..Some of them were informed and compassionate people. They would drop comments such as¬† ” I can’t believe you would go there after what they did to the Rohingya.” I did get a couple of hasher comments such as “I didn’t know you support genocide, Heidi.” While I did not put as much stock in the latter, I did contemplate¬†comment such as the¬†first.

Was my going to Myanmar directly supporting this behavior?

I’ve seen these debates between travelers a million times. Both sides raise some valid points. The majority of people do not want to put their money towards governments that are committing atrocities. That’s understandable.

Myanmar was not the first country I felt reservations about visiting over human rights issues. I felt this way when I went to Russia in 2015. I was adamantly opposed to the treatment of the LGBT community and the annexation of Crimea. I feel weird about visiting the states since the election of Trump. I can make a list for quite a few countries while I am it. If you open debates about boycotting one country, it opens a can of worms, and you end up on a rabbit hole of ‘ whataboutisms”.¬† One of my biggest pet peeves of all time is the ” whataboutist” or ” Tu quoque’ fallacy. It solves¬†nothing and just turns into a useless debate.

I am against boycotting countries in an umbrella sense whether it is Myanmar or Iran or the US. I can understand the reluctance to buy products from a specific country to a degree, but I am not entirely sure I am for that in an umbrella sense as well.  Often when traveling, except for paying for a visa and maybe entrance into some cultural sites, most of the money you spend goes into local businesses that help regular people that are not involved make a living. People are not their government either. There are many people in countries with questionable human rights that are working hard to improve the situation.

Another example I can think of is this punk rock magazine that I used to enjoy in my youth decided to stop featuring punk bands from Israel and cited the BDS  ( Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movements as their reasons why. While I am not going to go down the rabbit hole with that. Many of these Israeli punk bands have worked very hard to give voices to the Palestinian people and fight against many of these policies put in place by the Israeli government. It is not fair to collectively punish a group of people when many remain adamantly opposed to the actions of their government are working hard within their country to change things for the better. Instead of making a blanket boycott of a specific country, a better alternative would be to do your research and try to invest as much as you into ethical businesses of this country.

One issue I also have with boycotting countries as it could even help perpetuate the problems. Let’s say Myanmar does have a huge problem with Buddhist populism. If people are isolated from any other kind of people, it is only¬†going to perpetuate the issue more. Exposure to different backgrounds minimizes the negative effects of populism and nationalism.

Anyways, this is just my 2 cents on a topic that I’ve been thinking about a lot for the last couple of years. Many will disagree with me and criticize me for whatever choices I make any way of where I¬†choose to travel or don’t travel to.¬† I am kind of damned if I do or damned if I don’t. This leads to another topic that I will write about in the future about why travelers should stop being super judgemental about other people’s travels.


Anyways thanks for for tuning it! If you have any comments or disagreements, feel free to share them with me. I’m more than happy to address them.

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