Nepali Times Asian Paints
Letters
Mark Turin and Sara Shneiderman reply-


As the authors of the initial article 'Tibet, Tibet' (#150), we thank Greenwald and Cancellaro for their feedback (#151). Their letter raises several valid points. Here we respond to some of their comments, as well as to those of Bhuchung Tsering (see letter, above). We are delighted that Ethical Traveler and the Tibet Justice Center have decided to 'withhold action on the proposed boycott'. Their alternative tourist advisories are more appropriate and in line with the grassroots situation in Nepal.

However, some concerns remain. While Greenwald and Cancellaro suggest that the decision to withhold the boycott was reached 'after consulting with several other human rights and Tibetan rights groups', we are eager to know whether human rights organisations in Nepal were among those consulted. The authors' acknowledge the broader human rights problem endemic to rural Nepal, but their closing demand smacks of a pious moral certainty that is disrespectful of Nepali citizens' ongoing efforts to reform their own polity from within: 'We hope that, should further actions become necessary, all Nepalis will support whatever actions Ethical Traveler and the human rights community suggests'. Moreover, if Ethical Traveler genuinely want Nepalis to support their reformulated recommendations they should disseminate their viewpoint in the Nepali language press.

Likewise, Bhuchung Tsering's analysis of the situation is nuanced, but he would also do well to recognise that there is no single 'Tibetan' opinion the world over. He suggests that we should discuss this issue with ordinary Tibetans on the street, as if we had not yet done so. In fact, it was precisely such conversations with Tibetan residents of Kathmandu that shaped the opinions expressed in our original article. While there is a natural diversity of opinion among the 20,000+ Tibetan population in Nepal, several Tibetans of various social backgrounds found the international Tibet support community's proposed boycott to be out of step with their own feelings.

Here we must correct Tsering's misunderstanding. We were not suggesting that a general 'international outcry' would 'spark new tensions between the Nepali and Tibetan communities'. A hurtful economic boycott specifically targeted at Nepal's tourist trade, however, would surely do so. As our initial article made clear, we believe that a protest about the Tibetan issue in particular and the Nepali human rights situation in general is absolutely necessary. The question is what strategy will yield the most positive results for all involved parties.

To conclude, we concur with CK Lal ('Imperious Power, #151) that the Ethical Traveler approach represents a troubling hypocrisy among American action groups on both the left and right. While Nepal is singled out for special condemnation for trespassing international law, the link to the United States on Ethical Traveler's Resources web page refers to the nation as 'the world's first modern democracy'. In light of the horrors of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, the ongoing atrocities against civilians in Iraq and the inability of the United States government to sign international treaties, it is extraordinary that Ethical Traveler remains silent. Why no clickable email petition to the White House? Does Ethical Traveler recommend a tourism boycott to the United States, or expect \'all\' Americans to support its recommendations? More careful consideration of such questions might benefit travellers and citizens of all countries.

Mark Turin and Sara Shneiderman,
Kathmandu


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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