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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2673

Airlines suspend Flights to Myanmar

By Leel Pathirana

Yangon, 01 January, ( : Qatar Airways, one of only 15 foreign airlines operating in and out of Myanmar, is suspending its weekly four flights to the military-ruled former Burma in January, a company official said on Saturday.

"Our last flight on this route will be on 9th January 2008," a member of staff, told adding that the reasons for the route cancellation were "just commercial". However, one Yangon-based travel agent said the flights from Doha were nearly always full. "We don't think the true reason for their suspending is commercial viability. Seat occupancy on their flights is very good," said the travel agent, who asked not to be named.

"We think it could be due to the pressure from Western countries." Qatar Airways opened its Doha-Yangon-Doha route in December 2004. Since the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September, in which at least 31 people were killed, the United States and Europe have pushed for tighter international sanctions against Myanmar's ruling military junta. Besides tightening their own trade embargoes, analysts suspect Washington in particular is also bringing quiet a bit pressure to bear on other smaller countries, such as Singapore, that do business with Myanmar.

Myanmar Airways International (MAI), was forced in October to drop its Yangon-Bangkok and Yangon-Kuala Lumpur routes after its insurer refused to provide coverage for the leased MD-82 aircraft plying the route. However, the airline said on Saturday it had managed to find some different aircraft and would restart a daily service to Bangkok and a thrice a weekly service to the Malaysian capital.

Most Asian countries remain officially opposed to sanctions against the junta, arguing that pushing the generals even further into isolation would be counterproductive.

- Asian Tribune -

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