In one version of reality, Myanmar teeters on the edge of civil war as people take up arms against its repressive military to free themselves from its rule. In another, the country is a content and peaceful place where farmers work the land, happy children attend school, and generous leaders erect ever-larger pagodas.
Welcome to the land of make believe, brought you by the military.
After trying to reopen schools, movie theaters and other elements of “normal” living, the ruling junta’s latest move this week was to announce it would reopen the country for tourism, despite a swell of violence including near-daily bombings and assassinations nationwide.
The junta’s top tourism tout, Htay Aung, recently found out in person how popular the military’s leadership is on a trip to promote tourism at Ngapali and Chaungtha beaches.
Ten soldiers were reportedly killed when resistance fighters opened fire on his convoy headed back to Yangon, an attack claimed in part by a group called the Beach Defence Force, or BDF in Myanmar’s ever-expanding pool of alphabet soup.
It’s not known how the minister himself is doing. The blast seemed to silence the junta’s media campaign, as the minister’s get-out-the-word tour stopped appearing in state-controlled media – pretty much now the only authorized media – after his appearance. Tnd the blast itself apparently didn’t happen in their virtual reality.
Maung Maung Ohn, junta minister of information, may also be guilty of some “magical thinking,” as he plans to resume air travel by the end of next quarter.
“We must ensure that we’re ready to meet the standard operating procedures,” he proclaimed boldly if obtusely in a recent news release.
He might hold onto that thought until the junta’s health agencies can figure out how to handle travel in a way that makes any sense.
Air travelers are being told to wear full protective kit in the air – but not in the airport – while ministry staff, cops and immigration agents don’t bother with any.
For the fully vaccinated and freshly tested guests who may want to come to visit? Their bus driver will be hidden underneath a full biohazard burka on their way to seven days of expensive quarantine stays at junta-friendly hotels – and two more PCR tests before they can travel onward.
A sure bet to lure hordes of cash-flush tourists, especially after Thailand and Cambodia have lifted most requirements, quarantine included, for vaccinated arrivals?
Makes one wonder, what world do these military men live in? Maybe they could leave ours and go find it.