To boycott a travel destination for political reasons is always a difficult decision to make, with arguments that can cited both pro and con. But to boycott a country because you fear for your safety there, is an easier step to take. That latter reason is why I’m no longer considering a trip to Egypt, and I have somewhat different and more arguable reasons for passing up a trip to Myanmar.
Last month, the military government of Egypt condemned its former president, Mohammed Morsi, to death. His crime? Together with several hundred other political prisoners, he had “unlawfully” escaped from prison during the time of the uprising (the “Arab spring”) against the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The sentence handed down against him and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood is so clearly excessive, that it is bound to create a violent response on the part of the several million Egyptians who consider themselves part of that so-called Brotherhood.
You need not be an admirer of that Muslim group—and I, for one, greatly deplore their policies—to feel that the actions of Egypt’s current regime are so counter-productive and indeed barbaric they are bound to touch off suicide bombings and other assaults throughout that country. There have already been acts of retaliation against Egyptian military and police, and there are bound to be more. And although violence will not necessarily be specifically directed against tourists, they will endanger tourists. Now is not the time to visit Egypt, and I would not dream of going to what was once a memorable highlight of my touristic experiences.
As for Myanmar, it evokes a different kind of reaction from sensitive Americans.
In the last two years, it has become somewhat chic to visit Myanmar, not because Americans are particularly aware of its attractions but because this former land of horrors was supposed to be a new democracy, a place that had mended its ways. No longer were the military rulers of Myanmar holding their chief opposition figure, the courageous Aung San Suu Kyi, in house arrest. There was even hope that she might eventually be permitted to assume the post she had won in democratic elections.
Yet all the while, Myanmar’s strutting generals were wreaking horrors upon their nation’s small Muslim minority, a suffering people known as Rohingya. So fierce and unrelenting were their physical attacks upon this defenceless people that thousands of Rohingya have turned to boarding rickety boats in a frantic attempt to escape by sea to Thailand or Malaysia. You have seen photographs in recent weeks of these pitiful vessels to which hundreds of men, women and children have clung, often falling into the sea and drowning in large numbers. Others have starved to death while attempting these hopeless escapes.
As long as the boat people of Myanmar are murdered, in effect, by that country’s uniformed leaders, I for one will not travel to Myanmar. And I hope that you, too, will make a similar decision. To confer your touristic rewards in such a situation raises questions of morality, no matter how well you may be wined and dined in hotels just a short distance away from horror.