Residents in Bagan are calling for new measures to protect tourists as incidents of theft increased this month at one of Burma’s most popular tourist destinations.
According to the police superintendent of Bagan’s Nyaung-U township, there have been three separate occasions this month when muggers on motorbikes targeted tourists and snatched their belongings.
“There aren’t enough tourist police to protect the visitors. I saw two tourist policemen at the gate of Shwesandaw Pagoda around the sunset – they wear blue uniforms and just sit at the gate inspecting tickets,” said Nyi Nyi of Myanmar [Burma] Tour Guides Association.
According to local officials, the assailants who targeted a British national on 16 February have been apprehended; however, the culprits who robbed tourists earlier in the month are still at large.
Local resident Min Naing urged police to address the problem as more tourists pour into the city.
“Bagan is now crowded with tourists – there’s not enough accommodation for them and we would like the tourist police’s plan to be implemented as soon as possible,” said Min Naing.
However, experts claim a rise in crime is common when a large influx of tourists begin regularly visiting a destination.
“The crime rate is a little bit up, which is normal in tourist destinations where more tourists come – crime increases. Everywhere it’s the same,” said Andrea Valentin, founder of Tourism Transparency.
“Burma is very safe for tourists.”
The last recorded incident of a tourist being mugged in Bagan occurred in 2011.
According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism’s website, the number of tourists arriving at Yangon International Airport, which serves as the main portal for travellers visiting the country, has increased by 51 percent in the past year.