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Tea Leaves

Sun, sea and civil war: holidaying in Myanmar

Tourists to strife-torn country must first make peace with risks and ethics

A beach in Ngwesaung, in the Ayeyarwady region of southern Myanmar, in 2017. With the pandemic easing, the military regime wants to restart tourism. (Getty Images)

In the grand lobby of a Yangon hotel, a senior Myanmar tourism official told me she was meeting government officials to "rebrand" the country to focus international attention on pristine beaches instead of conflict and military atrocities.

It was March 2018, and Myanmar was governed by an elected civilian administration. But instead of standing up for the Muslim Rohingya, hundreds of thousands of whom had fled to Bangladesh amid a crackdown by Myanmar soldiers, the government was prioritizing a campaign to boost international tourism.

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