YANGON, 23 February 202: The auspicious date 22-2-2021 saw the biggest demonstrations in Myanmar so far, as an estimated 1 million people took to the streets to demonstrate against the military coup.
Amongst the demonstrations, a big group of 2000 tourism professionals also showed their commitment to democracy and demanded with other industry representatives that the civilian elected government be reinstated, and democracy restored. The message on the streets of major towns across the country clearly calls on the military junta to relinquish their power grab.
The group included hotel staff, tours guides, travel agency staff, drivers, travel bloggers and many other professionals from the travel industry and lasted the whole morning, ending with a sit-in demonstration on Bogyoke Aung San Road.
The fight for democracy includes demands to free the winner of the November elections Aung San Suu Kyi, who has not been seen since 1 February and is apparently under house arrest in the capital city Nay Pyi Taw where also the minister of hotel & tourism, U OhnMaung, is also held on trumped-up charges.
The demonstrations in Myanmar are remarkably well organised, although there isn’t an apparent leader. Generation Z is very effective and fluid in the organisation yet still showing the character and kindness of the Myanmar people. These are peaceful demonstrations to seek the return of what is their right – democracy and unhindered free elections. During the half-day demonstration by tourism professionals, we noticed that everybody is polite yet determined. There is no aggression or vandalism, and volunteers collect the garbage.
Volunteers direct the traffic; people chant slogans in unison, songs that focus on democracy, freedom. They are sometimes a bit cheeky yet never calling for violence. The demonstrations are peaceful. Hundreds of volunteers hand out free snacks, food and water to the demonstrators, which shows the well-known hospitality of Myanmar always comes from the heart.
Also, in tourist locations as Mandalay, Bagan, Kalaw, Loikaw, Hpa An, Mawlamyine and Inle Lake, there have been daily demonstrations against the military junta that included hundreds of people from the Myanmar tourism industry.
TTR Weekly has a reliable source on the ground who is monitoring the demonstrations from the tourism industry’s perspective. It is clear that the tourism industry worldwide needs to make a stand. It enjoys the benefits of democracy and free elections and should now come out in support of the travel professionals in Myanmar who are on the streets demanding a return of their elected government. UNWTO and the WTTC should lead by example and have the courage to condemn acts that compromise human rights.