August 19, 2016

Foreign Tourists are Flocking In. But !

The news of the explosion at Sithar village in Pyin Oo Lwin township a few days ago prompted me to write this article. I had pointed out the pros and cons of the increase of foreign visitors to the country in my previous article: “Foreign Tourists are Flocking In. But!”. That article was written after I happened upon a post on the social media that displayed a photo of some foreigners dressed inappropriately and wearing footwear on the Shwe Dagon Pagoda platform. In that article I had warned that though the tourism trade is beneficial for our economy and generate more jobs for our citizens, there are risks of cultural and behavioral invasions and breach of our security. Now, this latest incident proved me right about the security risks.
My analysis was based on the experiences of Thailand. Our neighbour had been promoting tourism and is very successful. However, the successes had their dark sides. There had been many cases of cultural and security breaches. Their cultural heritages are being vandalized or damaged by some unruly tourists from a populous country to their north. Those same people are causing nuisances everywhere they go with their bad manners and behaviours. Though the breach to the cultural norms and values may be excusable or tolerable for the sake of the tourism trade, the security risks that country had been facing had become very high.
To cite one example of the security risk, I would like to mention the bombing incident last year at the Erawan Shrine in the busy downtown area of Bangkok. That shrine is one of the world-famous tourist attractions in Thailand. It attracts tourists of every race and religion who visit Thailand. Some come to pay homage and some for sightseeing. The shrine is crowded with foreigners at all times and the evenings are the most crowded times. The perpetrators planted explosives, packed in a back pack left on a bench close to the shrine. The explosion was so intense that even the pedestrians walking along the nearby skywalk high above the ground and vehicles traveling along the roads passing by that place were hit. There were many casualties and severe damages to many vehicles.
That incident was not an isolated case, because that very same day a security camera at a river ferry jetty, where foreign tourists frequented caught images of a man throwing an object into the river from a bridge close to the jetty. When the authorities retrieved that object with the help of the divers, it was found to be explosives. On further investigations by the experts, the explosives were found to be of the same type as the one that exploded at the Erawan Shrine. According to some media reports, the perpetrators were nationals from the populous country to their north and in my opinion it wasn’t a coincidence that the majority of the tourists who used to visit the shrine and the river ferry are from the same country.
Then, there was another incident early this month in Bangkok, related to security, which involved four foreigners from that same country. The four men wearing face masks and safety helmets armed with BB toy guns tried to rob a gun shop. They demanded the shop owner to handover some guns to them. When the employees of the gun shop noticed that the guns were just toys, they attacked the robbers. The robbers used daggers to retaliate the attack by the employees and tried to escape on two motor bikes. At the nick of time, a Thai police man showed up on the scene and fired shots at the fleeing men when the men on the rear seats pointed the BB guns at the police. One was killed on the spot and three others were wounded and were caught. Another person, who was thought to be the mastermind of that incident was apprehended in Pukhet. He was based in Thailand for sometimes with a business as a cover. It’s quite clear what their motives were to get the real guns.
Yet another news emerged a few days ago about two nationals of that same country who were killed during a gun battle between the Indonesian security forces and a terrorist group. According to the media reports, those two were getting training from the terrorists. It was learned from the media reports of Thailand and Indonesia, that the people involved in all the three incidents belonged to a minority race in their native country.
Based on the above incidents it could be deduced that some dissidents from a country to our north are trying to settle their scores on foreign soils. Thus, the fact that the incident at Pyin Oo Lwin could have some connections to those incidents should not be ignored. I’m not being paranoid, but I’m trying to point out the possibility of terrorist acts on our soil. Thorough investigation should be made what caused the explosions and to identify who those foreigners found at the house, where the explosion occured, actually were and what were their intentions.
Recently, Thailand is banning entry of tourists with their own motor vehicles, especially from the north, as there were many undesirable incidents of disregard for the traffic rules by the visitors. These may be due to the ignorance of the traffic rules or disregard for the rules and regulations of the host country by the arrogant visitors. We are seeing more and more tourists being allowed to enter our country with their own vehicles. Strict instructions concerning the obeyance of the traffic rules of our country should be given to such entries to avoid undesirable accidents occuring on our soil. Disregards for traffic rules could endanger human lives.
I would, again, like to express my concerns, which I had outlined in the aforementioned article, about the invasion of culture and behaviorisms and risks to our safety and security that would accompany the influx of the foreign tourists. The authorities concerned should be wary of the  consequences of the tourism trade. In my humble opinion, though tourism could benefit our economy and create more job opportunities, there could be many negative impacts, not only those already mentioned, but also on the social and moral norms of our people and on many other aspects.


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