Tourist Robberies Rise in Bagan

Bagan is an ancient temple complex that flourished between the 9th and 13th century. Some 2,000 temples remain scattered among the arid hills of central Burma today. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON—Robberies of foreign tourists are increasing at Bagan, an ancient temple complex that is one of Burma’s most popular tourist attractions, but local police in Mandalay Division are failing to improve safety, tourist businesses complain.

“Cases of robbery and deceit against tourists from foreign countries have increased these days so they need to be protected and we shouldn’t be negligent,” said Tin Htun Aung, the Secretary of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association. “There can be more of these kinds of incidents if we don’t take any action.”

Tin Htun Aung said local police should do more to help foreign tourists when they are approached for questions or complaints. He added that police were supposedly ready to assist tourists as they had put up signs in hotels and guesthouses near Bagan with the motto “Let Us Help You!”

Some local tourist guides in Bagan said two Burmese men in their early twenties robbed two British women on Feb. 16, stealing their money and phones, while a Chinese woman was mugged on Feb.14. They complained that local police had so far failed to apprehend any suspects in the cases.

“Robbery cases in Bagan have increased because more foreigners visit there. But perpetrators have never been caught,” said a Japanese tourist guide, who preferred not be named. “Such incidents took place not only in Bagan but also in other [tourist] areas,” he added.

Some said the poorly lit tourist areas near Bagan created an unsafe environment for foreign visitors, adding that authorities should improve safety by deploying police officers at night.

“In most cases, perpetrators hid in dark places and robbed tourists,” said Myo Min Zaw, an English-language tourist guide. “There are a number of reasons that contribute to different cases, such as when tourists go on their own without guides, or language barriers between police and tourists.”

The Irrawaddy contacted the local police station for comment but officers answering the telephone refused to take questions on the reported robbery cases.

In 2011, a Japanese tourist was raped and killed close to Bagan after hiring a motorcycle taxi to go sightseeing. Police arrested a taxi driver on suspicion of her murder.

Burma’s tourism industry is experiencing a rapid growth in visitor number due to ongoing reforms and a lifting of travel restrictions. Statistics from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism show that over 410,000 foreigners entered the country in 2011 and last month the ministry claimed the total arrivals had risen to one million in 2012. Tourist visits are expected to increase with 15 percent this year.

There are concerns about whether or not Burma can handle the surge in visits as it reportedly only has 800 hotels with 28,000 rooms. As a result of the tourism boom, hotel rates and price of domestic flights have sharply increased in 2012


12 Responses to Tourist Robberies Rise in Bagan

  1. This is really shocking news from a Buddhist country ! I have visited the country many times before and never faced these problems. Yet theis report shows the change of some people. Time to show the world that this will be dealt with immediately by the locals.

    • Weird and a very biased comment! Do you think only non-Buddhists (like most of the rest of the world) are allowed to commit crimes and all Buddhists are “free of sins” LOL? By the way there are non-Buddhists in Burma too.

  2. Please do not refer to MYANMAR as Burma. ‘Burma’ was a name given by the British Imperialist. The UN, EU and all International Organizations recognize it as Myanmar now. Thank you.

    • The Thais call us “phama”. Burmese call the Chinese “tayoke”, the Indians “kalar”, the Jingphaws “kachin”, the Zomi “chin” etc. etc. no? Is that wrong too?

  3. This is damaging the country image. So bad, the authority need to take action on those who commit that crime and they, the authorities were responsible for the safety for tourist.

  4. It is not surprising because Burma/Myanmar is called ‘thieve country or nation’ and bad habits or culture are die hard because it seems stealing is not considered morally/ ethically wrong or corrupted because everyone (monks, previous and present political leaders and all civil servants)in Burma steal in spite of the fact that about 90% Burmese adhere to the teachings of Buddha in which all Bama take pride. Ko Khine suggested that “the authorities need to take action on those who commit that crime” but people who have authority are masters/ lords of thiefs and they have to be brought to justice first. It will be unfair and no justice will be served if masters of thief punish little thiefs.

    • In responding to Nan Tal’s comment: Myanmar is not a Thieves Country,pls.don’t generalize every Myanmarese are theieves. Well, no mater of how the country being rich, there are thieves. It is individual mindset.Come to Bagan particular case, it is all because of Gov’t’s fault. Sometimes, the police are involved, you may know that, especially if you go by train. Well again,not to put any religion things here. Buddha’s teaching and all other religion teaching are all good, if the followers can obey. All can be proud of to be Buddha or Islam/Christian, that is by the way natural of inspiration.

  5. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not use Myanmar in referring to Burma in her 18 minutes long lecture speech on “Democracy and Development in Asia” and Q&A when receiving an honorary doctorate from Seoul Nation University, Korea on 1 Feb. 2013. She used Burma. Whether we call Burma or Myanmar, what is important for Burma or Myanmar is to stop stealing to eliminate being called ‘thief country or nation’ and to stop killing not to become the second ‘Killing Field’. Once stealing and killing mentality and culture is stop Burma or Myanmar will experience truly Golden Land: Burma/ Myanmar

  6. Yes, lighting system in Bagan is a must to improve. Not only for foreigner, even for us local it is dangerous to go out during the night. During my trip there I kept thinking of instead of renovating the Pagoda, the Gov’t should fix the lighing.

  7. I Am Glad I Visited Myanmar Since 2006 And Travelled To Mrauk O, Taunggyi, Bagan, Pwin OO Lwin,
    The Only Place I Have Missed Is Putao Because Of The Unrest In That Region.
    Such Incident Like Robberies Are Bound To Happen When You Have Proverty…
    Also Most Of The Local Policemen Cannot Speak In English Whjch Makes It Hard For Them
    To Implement The Law When DEaling With Foreign Tourists……

  8. Agree with everybody, fair and accurate from the angle you view. I had been back to Myanmar 38 times since 1970. I had been lucky not to have come across a thieve. However, I have lost all my family jewels, nine estates to thieves who swindled my 91 year old mother. These thieves happen to be a doctor who later took protection from a Lt. General by marrying him.They use black magic too, the most popular and effective is “Naing Htsay” a scorpion tattoo.
    Petty thieves will hurt tourist industry. However, let us take it as a form of donation. Wear inner pocket belt with important papers. Have a second wallet for donation as opportunity arise.It is alright to have a walking stick or strong unbella. These are gentle thieves, not like Mexico.
    Godbless you ALL.

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