(What follows is my Wikipedia entry for the organisation which I co-founded in 2003: Voices For Burma (VFB). Wikipedia removed the entry, so I add it here for posterity. Hopefully historians of that period will locate this page, and perhaps my kids will be proud of their father. After all, Aung San Suu Kyi was regarded as a saint until 2017, but we campaigned against her 14 years before that).
Voices for Burma
Voices for Burma (VFB) was a Non-Governmental Organisation founded in 2003, closing in 2009. Founded in the UK, Voices for Burma campaigned on two fronts. First, to examine the complexities of the tourist boycott of Myanmar promoted by Aung San Suu Kyi and secondly to educate visitors to Myanmar on the need to travel in the country ethically.
Voices for Burma was founded by Andrew Gray, Anna Laycock and Zishaan Arshad, following Andrew Gray’s visits to Burma/Myanmar in 2002 and 2003.
Change of Leadership of Voices for Burma
As Cherie McCosker and Emily Pelter joined Voices for Burma, Zishaan Arshad and thereafter Anna Laycock stepped aside. Andrew Gray remained throughout.
Voices for Burma was supported by Dr Zarni of the Free Burma Coalition and several British former diplomats and Myanmar scholars. On their key message that ethical tourism to Myanmar could be undertaken ethically, Voices for Burma took the counter position to The Burma Campaign UK which had maintained strict adherence to Aung San Suu Syi call for a total tourism boycott.
Primarily, Voices for Burma educated potential visitors to Myanmar through its website (now defunct) and through Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree online travel forum. The website was created and managed by Burmese refugees living in India.
Voices for Burma was invited by Lonely Planet editors to advise on the 9th edition of the Burma/Myanmar guidebook, referenced in the 2005 edition.
In 2006, Voices for Burma submitted written evidence to the UK House of Lords on the efficacy of the tourism boycott here. Voices for Burma concluded:
“It is VFB’s stance that the UK Government’s policy on tourism to Burma is at best confused and at worst irreconcilable with its commitment under the Common Position to assist the poorest sections of Burmese society. It is not VFB’s argument that the Travel Boycott is fundamentally flawed, as VFB discourages some tourists to Burma, however the boycott policy has not been evaluated and has not engendered any positive societal shifts.”
In 2006, founder Andrew Gray appeared in the New York Times here.
“When I was in Burma, I’ve never met anyone who said that I shouldn’t be there,” said Andrew Gray, founder of Voices for Burma, another advocacy group. Mr. Gray argues that educated tourists can spend money on local businesses without government links and help average people in one of Asia’s poorest nations.”
In 2010, though now defunct, Voices for Burma appeared in The Guardian at here.
“While favouring engagement, Voices for Burma and the Free Burma Coalition urge tourists to do as much as possible to help private Burmese citizens and not put money in the government’s pocket, and in fact it is possible to do so now as a tourist.”