Unlike other countries in South East Asia, Myanmar is quite sensitive with cameras. Many a time, foreign visitors are requested not to take photos of sensitive buildings and places. Sometimes, it might even result in occasional inconveniences, as described by one of the visitors to Yangon.
“This is a great Edwardian brick pile in a hospital complex surrounded by other British buildings of similar vintage. Imagine my excitement as I cruised the grounds snapping away at the architecture.
After about 5 minutes I became aware of a few men near me who seemed to be following me. Pretending to ignore them I continued to shoot – although I was very aware of the Burmese junta’s reputation and had read about the profusion of informants everywhere. Sure enough, I was later arrested by plainclothes informants (mind-dead goons to be precise). I was taken into an office and could not leave until I had seen a senior official (a very pleasant female) and had deleted the photos taken of the hospital and surrounding buildings. When asked why I had to delete the photos, I was told ‘for security’.
This was my parting shot as I left the hospital gates.”
To avoid any such inconveniences, we would like to give our readers a few advice in taking photos while you are visiting Myanmar (off course unless you are a reporter). As a rule of thumb, avoid taking photos of the followings.
- Security personals (e.g. soldiers, police)
- Government offices, police stations and military bases
- Insides of government offices
- Insides of hospitals, hospital wards and hospital patients
- Government service men in action during their work
- Offices of political parties
- Any kind of political activities
If you are stopped or detained while taking photo, don’t run away as it will cause you more trouble. Also don’t argue or try to reason. Politely apologize the one who detains/stopped you and tell him you don’t know you should not take photos. Offer to show him the photos you took (with care, if you are sure you didn’t take anything illegal or suspicious). If you are requested to delete your photos, don’t argue. Simply delete as you are instructed.
If you really intend to take government offices or government service men in action, don’t hide your camera. Just bring a small snapshot camera instead of a professional looking camera, take a few snap shots on the way, and just keep on walking. Don’t linger around trying to get the best shot. Act casual. In most cases, you will be able to get away with this strategy without drawing any attention.
Bearing in mind these few advices, we hope your stay in Myanmar will be trouble free.