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BURMA (MYANMAR)
Last Updated: 28 September 2007
MEDIA SAFETY  -   LATEST DEVELOPMENTS  -   PRACTICAL INFO  
If you are preparing a trip to this country, please contact our regional office for more information :

Red Batario
red.batario@gmail.com

MEDIA SAFETY

27 September 2007: Japanese Journalist Killed in protests

27 September 2007: Foreign Journalists Hotel Ransacked During Protests

26 September 2007: News Blackout Accompanies Military Crackdown on Protests

15 September 2007: Government Cuts Phone Service to Journalists

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS


Latest articles on Burma from Reuters Alertnet

28 September 2007: Myanmar crowds taunt troops as crackdown draws outrage

27 September 2007: Myanmar: Turbulent days of mass protest

27 September 2007: At least two injured as warning shots fired in Myanmar

26 September 2007: Three killed as Myanmar troops battle protests


Latest Media Release from the International Crisis Group
Myanmar: Time for Urgent Action (25 September 2007)

Latest update from Crisis Watch (September 2007)
Government raised fuel prices by as much as 500 percent 15 August, prompting series of small protests in and around Yangon. 13 dissidents from "88 Generation Students" group arrested 22 August; wave of arrests followed as pro-government vigilantes dispatched to suppress protests, prompting international condemnation.

Click here to go to the Crisis Watch page

Latest Report from the International Crisis Group
Myanmar: New Threats to Humanitarian Aid (08 December 2006)

General Security Information
We advise against all but essential travel to Burma due to the unsettled political situation. Protests against the government are taking place in cities across Burma and there have been reports of clashes between protestors and the security forces. A curfew has been imposed between 6 pm and 6 am in Rangoon and Mandalay and gatherings of more than 5 people have been prohibited.

In August a number of protesters were jailed and a number of people, including monks, were seriously injured at Pakokku on 5 September. Since then the protests have grown in size, with up to 10,000 people participating in each march. Daily protests are likely to continue and you should avoid any demonstrations and large crowds as these have the potential to turn violent. Burmese authorities have warned that they will take action if these continue. You should keep yourself informed of developments, including by regularly checking this travel advice.

If you are visiting or are resident in Burma, you should exercise caution in public places and ensure that you are comfortable with, and regularly review, your own and your family’s security arrangements. You should avoid any demonstrations and large crowds, especially on or around public holidays such as Armed Forces Day (27 March) and Martyrs Day (19 July) as these have the potential to turn violent.

Terrorism/Security
There is a general threat from terrorism in Burma. Since April 2005, there have been a number of bomb explosions in Burma. You should exercise caution in public places and ensure that you are comfortable with, and regularly review your own and your family's security arrangements. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Past targets have included commercial interests, public transport and places tourists may visit. Most recently on 25 May 2007 there was an explosion at a hotel in Namphalong, near the Burma-India border, reportedly killing one and injuring two others.

Basic Facts

Capital
Rangoon

Language
Burmese is the official language, but minority languages are also spoken.

Ethnic Groups
The Burmese make up 69 percent of the population. Minorities include the Shan, Karen, Rakhine, Mon, Chin and Kachin.

Religion
Buddhism is the religion of 89 percent of the people. There are smaller groups of Christians, Muslims and others.

Local Laws and Customs
You should respect religious custom when visiting Budhist religious sites – shorts and sleeveless tops will cause offence and shoes and socks should be removed before entering a pagoda or monastery.

Penalties for drug trafficking range from a minimum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and can include the death penalty.

Crime
There are no accurate crime statistics, but anecdotal evidence suggests that muggings, burglaries and petty thefts in Rangoon have increased as the economic situation has deteriorated. Expatriate homes and hotels have been targeted in the past. You should take extra care of your belongings. There have been occasional instances of violent crime against foreigners. You should take sensible security precautions at all times.

Useful Information

Time Zone
GMT +6 1/2

Climate
Tropical monsoon climate; cool and dry from February to November; hotter and wet in May to September period. The mountainous areas have the most rainfall and humidity is high all year round along the coast.

Telephone dialling code
(+)95

International GSM roaming is not available in Burma. Satellite Phone is required.

Currency
The currency is the Kyat. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are rarely accepted in Burma. One or two major hotels in Rangoon do accept credit cards, but this is subject to change. If you wish to pay by credit card, you should check with your hotel prior. You should bring enough US Dollars to fund your stay. Be aware that as a result of concerns over counterfeit money, US Dollars with the letters AB and CB at the start of the serial number (top left-hand corner of note) are not always accepted.

There are no ATMs in Burma.

You no longer need to change US $200 into FECs on arrival at Rangoon. Exchange counters at the airport offer the government approved rate (450 kyats to the US$) which is significantly less than the market rate.

Travel

Visa Requirements
Press visas are severely restricted by the military. Tourist visa (valid for four weeks) or business visas (valid for ten weeks) must be obtained before travelling to Burma.

You should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity (over six months) before travelling.

If you intend to stay in Burma for over a month you are advised to register with the Embassy on arrival.

You are encouraged to carry photocopies of your passport at all times.

Driving (Left/Right)
Right

Road Safety
British or International Driving Licences are not recognised in Burma. Foreigners must apply for a Myanmar Driving License at the Department for Road Transport and Administration in Rangoon.

Overland travel can be hazardous, particularly in the rainy season (May to October). Roads can become impassable and bridges damaged.

You should be aware that, under Burmese law, the driver of a car involved in an accident with a pedestrian is always at fault. Road safety awareness, among both drivers and pedestrians, barely exists. Many vehicles, including taxis, are in a poor mechanical state. Although Burma drives on the right the majority of cars are right hand drive, which can make driving hazardous.

Air Safety
You should be aware that Myanmar Airways has a poor safety record. This domestic airline should not be confused with Myanmar Airways International (MAI), which operates across South East Asia. Local flight schedules are subject to change without warning and you should leave sufficient time in your travel itinerary to accommodate this.

The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community. You should check the following link to see whether this will affect your travel: http://europa.eu.int/comm/transport/air/safety/flywell_en.htm

The list includes Phuket Airlines, which operates international flights to Burma. If booked on Phuket Airlines, you should check with your ticket provider.

You should expect to have your baggage searched and/or x-rayed on arrival. You may be required to leave items such as mobile phones and personal computers with customs, for collection upon departure. You are required to declare any foreign currency over US $2,000. Failure to do so may result in imprisonment. A departure tax of 10 US Dollars/FEC (Foreign Exchange Certificate) is payable when you check in for your departure flight.

Railway safety
Railway equipment is decrepit; fatal rail crashes occur, although they may not always be reported.

Sea/River Safety
You should ask for, and follow carefully, local advice about where it is safe to swim or dive in the sea. You should also be aware that search and rescue facilities are unlikely to meet international standards.

During the monsoon season (normally June to September), heavy rains can cause flooding. You should therefore enquire before attempting any river journey.

River transport may not conform to internationally recognised safety standards.

Local Travel
You should exercise caution if travelling to border areas in Burma. The Burmese government restricts travel to most border areas. There are a limited number of legal crossing points, but these could close without notice: Tachilek (Burma Shan State) – Mae Sai (northern Thailand border)
KawThoung (Burma Tanintharyi) – Ranong-Kawthoung (southern Thailand border)
Muse (Burma Shan State) – Ruili (China border)
Tamu (Burma Chin State) – Morei (India border)
You must exit Burma at the same border crossing from which you entered, and Burmese immigration officers may request to hold your passport until your visit is complete. You should not attempt to cross any border illegally or enter restricted areas without the appropriate permissions from the Burmese authorities.

You should be particularly vigilant if travelling to the Thai/Burma border. There is ongoing military activity close to this border, especially in Karen and the southern Shan states. Landmines also pose a threat in several areas.

Natural Disasters

The cyclone season in Burma normally runs from April to October.

Health

We strongly recommend that comprehensive travel and medical insurance, which includes air evacuation by a recognised carrier, be obtained before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.

Diseases
Malaria is endemic in Burma.

Dengue Fever is also endemic in Burma and can occur throughout the year particularly during the rainy season (December to April). There is no vaccination or immunisation. Since the beginning of 2007 reports have indicated a significant increase in the number of Dengue Fever cases. The authorities are taking measures to combat the disease.

You should seek medical advice before travelling and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.

Avian Influenza
In March and April 2007 the WHO confirmed outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry farms in several north and north-western suburbs of Rangoon. On 9 June 2007 an outbreak was reported in a poultry farm in Hanthawaddyward, Bago, 50 miles north of Rangoon. In July and September 2007 outbreaks were reported in poultry in Mon, southern Burma. No human infections or deaths have been reported. The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low. As a precaution, you should avoid visiting live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds and ensure poultry and egg dishes are thoroughly cooked.

Medical Supplies and facilities
Routine medical advice and treatment can be obtained in Rangoon and Mandalay, but elsewhere you should not assume that competent advice and treatment will be available. Up-front cash payment is often required prior to receiving medical treatment in Burma. Intrusive examinations, including emergency dental work, should be avoided due to irregular hygiene standards and the danger of infection, particularly by hepatitis and HIV/Aids.

Landmines

Both the military junta and non-state armed groups have continued to use antipersonnel mines extensively.

Myanmar’s military forces and non-state armed groups have used landmines consistently throughout the long-running civil war. Mine use continued in 2005 and 2006 in Karen (Kayin), Karenni (Kayah) and Shan states.

Landmines in Burma are concentrated mainly on its borders with Thailand, Bangladesh and India, and in eastern parts of the country marked by decades-old struggles by ethnic minorities for autonomy. At least nine out of 14 states and divisions in Burma suffer from some mine contamination, primarily antipersonnel mines. Burma is also affected by explosive remnants of war (ERW).

The borders with Thailand and Bangladesh are extensively mined. The border with India has some mined locations adjacent to Mizoram and Manipur states. In Chin state on the border between India and Burma, parts of Thangzang township are reported to be extensively affected, particularly near Dawn village, and in Than Tlang township, mines laid along the Tio river have led local inhabitants to abandon farmland.

The tri-border area between India, Burma and Bangladesh is reported to be extensively mined. The former Chin National Front/Army headquarters, Camp Victoria, was based in the tri-border area, and both Indian forces and the CNF say that the area surrounding the camp remains heavily mined. The adjacent area of Palehwa, in Chin state is mined, and mine casualties have occurred in both military and insurgent forces.



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