Visiting Oppressive States

Tourism in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar

Authored by: Andrea Valentin , Daniela Schilcher

The Routledge Handbook of Tourism in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138784581
eBook ISBN: 9781315768250
Adobe ISBN: 9781317665892


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Different degrees of change have occurred in Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar over the past decades. While civil war and ethnic unrest have been embedded in the recent histories of all three countries, the political situation is gradually improving. But it remains to be seen how the impacts of tourism will be absorbed in the local cultures and economies of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar in the long term. The Community Learning Center Laos (2014) explains that in the 1970s Laos was ravaged by the US “Secret War”, turning it into the most heavily bombed country on earth per capita. The Khmer Rouge created the state of “Democratic Kampuchea” in 1975 and ruled Cambodia until January 1979. Under the Khmer Rouge nearly two million people died, and those who lived through the genocide remain severely traumatised by their experiences. Myanmar entered a new period of governance in 2010 after half a century of military dictatorship, leading to the dropping of most economic sanctions and an opening up to the outside world. All three countries not only share a history of political unrest and civil war, they have also experienced dramatic increases in tourist arrivals since opening their borders to international visitors. In 2013, about 3.8 million tourists visited Laos, more than 4.2 million visited Cambodia, and about one million visited Myanmar. All three countries are experiencing substantial growth in tourist numbers, with tourism being a target industry in terms of employment generation and economic development. This chapter will provide an overview of the opportunities and challenges of tourism development in the three countries.

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