Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ethical Travel

There has long been a debate about the ethics of travel to Burma - does it help the dictators, or do the benefits trickle down to the people?

I wonder, why does there not seem to be such a debate for travel to Thailand?

Here is a quick list of things that most tourists choose to turn a blind eye to when travelling to Thailand:
- Ill treatment of Rohingya refugees & other minorities
- Nonsensical lese majeste charges against journalists, academics, writers, students etc
- Sexual exploitation including of minors
- Rampant corruption by government officials, military & police
- Military & elites continued disrespect of democracy & general repression of the poor masses
- Lack of freedom of speech (blocking websites etc)
- Environmental/pollution neglect & cover ups

That's just a quick list off the top of my head - I'm sure there are many other things of concern.

I'm not advocating stopping travelling to Thailand - that would hurt too many people who rely on tourism - but I do think tourists need to be more aware of the issues, instead of turning a blind eye just so they can continue enjoying the cheap travel, goods, food, accommodation, sex etc on offer.

My major concern is that tourists, by voting with their feet and turning a blind eye to obvious wrongs, are contributing to allowing those wrongs to continue to be perpetrated.

Of course, it's not only the many tourists who turn a blind eye - most mainstream media are compliant accomplices, and the Australian government performance in the Harry Nicolaides matter also seems to have been very disappointing (from where I sit).

PS. No, Dr T has not paid me to write this - I still think he's a part of the problem, not the solution.

I've been thinking more about this issue, and wanted to clarify that I definitely don't think stopping travelling to Thailand will help make things better, and could risk making things worse.
We need to remember, if it wasn't for the tourists to the
Similan Islands who blew the whistle on refugee treatment, then that issue would have remained buried and would have been much easier to cover up.
Kudos to those tourists for raising the issue, and also to the select media outlets that investigated and pushed the story.