Is Myanmar Safe? Terror Threats and Safety for Travelers

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Extreme government control and political unrest led many travelers to boycott tourism within Myanmar. However, in recent years, with more open borders, opinions have started to soften.


Street market in Yangon Photo © iStock/Maxiphoto

The people are welcoming to travelers, and eager to share their culture and history. Still, the country is highly militarised and there are intransigent problems in the west and north of the country. So before you pack your bags, understand the risks.

Terrorism in Myanmar

Terrorism in the country isn't the scourge it used to be, primarily due to the election of a (mostly) democratic government. Much of the violence pre-2015 was linked to the push for the end to military rule. However deep sectarian and ethnic differences persist with the ruling NLD party continuing with actions against the muslim Rohyinga population in Rakhine State. This conflict creatres tensions which frequently boil over into violence. There's no indication foreigners and tourists are the intended target of these acts, but they might be accidental victims because they often occur in popular, crowded locations.

The city of Yangon (Rangoon) has been the main target of terror attacks.

The last large-scale attack occurred in April 2010 when 3 bombs exploded during Buddhist New Year celebrations in Yangon, injuring 170 people.

Small-scale attacks since then include:

  • Small explosions in Yangon, Taungoo and Sagaing in October 2013 in which one foreign national was injured. 
  • On 17th and 20th of November 2016, there were 3 small explosions at 2 supermarkets and on 24 November 2016, there were 4 small explosions outside the Immigration Office. No serious injuries were reported.

The places where terrorism is more likely to occur include:

Border crossings

The Burmese borders are particularly hazardous places for both terrorist and army activity. Landmines are also a present threat along the Myanmar side of the border, and have the potential to cause devastating injury, or worse, death.

The borders with China and Laos are particularly dangerous due to drug trafficking and rebel groups, and people are cautioned not to travel near them. The border with Bangladesh is getting more and more dangerous, as the Rohingya issue becomes a real maze.

The Burmese army and several ethnic groups, also heavily armed, have been engaged in an ongoing gun battle. Increasing tensions between armed groups in both Northern and Southern Shan States and the Burmese army have also led to a spike in violence.

Be alert, not alarmed

Terrorist acts are especially dangerous because they're difficult to predict, and therefore it's hard to prepare and protect oneself. Your best course of action is to pay close attention to the local safety warnings, and understand what’s happening in the country while you’re there.

Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and always go with your gut. If you see something suspicious and your instinct tells you to get out of there, get out of there.

Myanmar is a relatively safe destination to visit, offering travelers the opportunity to experience a truly unique and fascinating culture.

Visitors should be aware of the threats, but not dissuaded by them, given that with the arrival of democracy and more governmental stability, terror attacks aren’t as likely to happen as a few years ago.

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