First, the people of Myanmar are super friendly, hardworking and very honest (lowest (reported) crime rate in SE Asia). The Burmese are somewhat shy, but I found if I smiled, they ALWAYS SMILED back.
The country is run by a military dictatorship, with promises of “ELECTIONS” in 2015. The history of Myanmar politics is too much for me to cover here. But to put the situation in perspective, Myanmar is ranked 171 out of 176 countries as most corrupt.
DEFORESTATION CAN BE DIRECTLY LINKED TO DECISIONS FROM WITHIN THE MILITARY
Most of the young backpackers I met said they loved Myanmar. So I asked them which parts they liked?: the deforested jungles? the open sewers? the sub-par highways? the rickety train? the constant smokey haze caused by cooking with wood? the garbage strewn everywhere? buses that arrrived at 4am to unknown towns? The fees you paid just to enter a town? The lack of accommodation? The continuous piles of burning trash, including plastics? Boy did I get a confused look.
I said in 20 years it will look the same, except maybe a few more 5 star hotels and louder vehicle horns.
With one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, the SOIL EROSION problem is critical. You could see the brown silt in the rivers. At current rates of erosion, they may not be able to grow enough food to feed themselves, within 10 years.
The young backpackers were on a more limited budget than me. So, I guess $2 food and $10 hotels were good. I view the world environmentally and Myanmar gets a big “F”.
I sat at the hotel one day and read 15 English versions of the MYANMAR TIMES. There was one story how top military and cabinet officials were taking classes on how to run a country, that’s how clueless they are. They REPORTED that only 1/3 of government initiatives were accomplished. Next time your un-happy with American politics (I am), just remember, it could be worse.
Due to the Food Insecurity and Poverty levels most Burmese experience, Opium production is up 13% in just the past year. When the British were here, Myanmar was the wealthiest SE Asian country, when the military took over it became the poorest country.
I still feel somewhat compelled to return and explore northern Myanmar and far south Myanmar. The Lonely Planet Guide book recommends avoiding places (hotels & tours) operated by the government. I feel the same way, until there are free and verifiable elections I’m recommending avoiding Myanmar. Yep, boycott Myanmar until the situation changes for the good of the common Burmese citizen and not just the rich. I’m only one person, but when people stop visiting and filling the coffers of the military, maybe they’ll get the message? Hopefully.
I didn’t gloss over the real problems of Myanmar, I felt compelled to tell the truth , from what I saw. There are many countries you can visit, that offer many activities, in an environment that still includes trees and wildlife!
Let’s end on a happy note
While visiting a Pagoda in Bago, I noticed these fires with something cooking above them and lots of activity. Upon further investigation I discover the making of a rice/coconut and peanut treats. It’s a full moon treat made at the monk monastery. I video taped it, WATCH IT HERE
Hey, HAVE A GREAT DAY!
NEXT? FIRST EVER VISIT TO CAMBODIA