Myanmar Must Lose Title of Backpacker Destination

Harrowing stories are emerging from Myanmar like this one recorded by the New York Times: "The Buddhists are killing us with bullets,” cried Noor Symon, a woman fleeing with her son. “They burned houses and tried to shoot us. They killed my husband by bullet."

While Myanmar has a checkered past, it recently has opened up to more Western tourism and has become a hotspot for backpackers in Asia who see the country as an escape to an untouched landscape with ancient temples leaping out of the jungle as far as the eye can see. Unfortunately, this fairytale image might be over. "Myanmar today presents a more worrying picture than at almost any time . . ." in its history.

The United Nations has already labeled the targeting of Rohinya muslims by the Myanmar army as "textbook ethnic cleansing." An estimated 536,000 Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh and more are arriving everyday, "driven out by hunger because food markets in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state had been shut down and aid deliveries restricted. [The refugees] also reported attacks by the military and Rakhine Buddhist mobs."

A country that seemed to be back on track has clearly been highjacked by extremists, and the atrocities being committed there shouldn't be tacitly endorsed by backpackers spending money as tourists, money that could find its way to funding these horrific events.

If the moral argument won't convince you, however, know that things in Myanmar might get much worse before they get better. Officials now worry muslim extremists may try to recruit the down-and-out Rohingya and exploit their vulnerability to push forward the agenda of international terrorist groups with "some religious hardliners in Muslim-majority Bangladesh . . . stirring the pot . . . , calling to arm the Rohingya." If this comes to pass, you certainly won't want to be caught in the middle of it.

Do the right thing, and go ahead and cancel Myanmar from any existing travel plans. Perhaps in the future, it will earn your visit. But that visit shouldn't be now.