A few months ago, I set out to go to Myanmar for a couple of weeks with my husband, at a very short notice and without any planning. Major elements about this trip made me cringe.
First of all, I am not a fan of short travel trips. It always feels rushed and superficial, more than often it’s not giving the opportunity to connect with locals and get off the beaten track. In my idealised first trip to Myanmar, we would have spent 3 months at minimum, spending extended periods of time in silent retreats in monasteries. Alas, we did not have time and the human world is not perfecting itself these days. By allowing enough time there, I also had a wish to understand the current Rohingya crisis from the people’s standpoint outside the conflict zone. What do they think of it, what are their feelings, as human beings but foremost as buddhists, about the horrific treatment of the Rohingya people by the military. Getting to know people’s view on that would be very challenging in 2 week’s time. These are not questions to be asked out of the blue if you want to get honest answers.
The other element bothering me was actually to unknowingly and unwillingly supporting the military by visiting the country and participating in the tourism economy. Avoiding internal flights was one thing (all airlines have a link or another with the military) – but what about all these fees for “archeological zones” and the likes, what were we funding really? Having my humanitarian friend Alexa sharing dire reports from the Kutupalong refugee camp situation on the other side of the border made me feel even more queasy [Read Alexa’s account of the situation at the camp]. Shall we really go there to tour the country given the situation? I thought about the beautiful ancient buddhist tradition of the Burmese people. All the Loving Kindness Burmese yogis who had nothing to do with the wrongdoings being committed, and all the normal people across the country surely living their lives the best they could. And so we went…Here are below a few of the pictures that I believe capture a tiny bit of the essence of this otherwise amazing country.
The feelings of peace and tranquility emanating from these shall not take you away from the atrocities committed in the Rakhine state against the Rohingya people. If you don’t know what’s happening over there, read this run down by National Geographic. There are plenty of organisations you can donate to support relief and political pressure efforts.
Action against hunger – focus: nutrition, health, sanitation and hygiene
Donate to Amnesty International – focus: human rights
Donate to Doctors without borders – focus: health