Myanmar ditched as global beauty pageant host over war


BANGKOK (AFP): Myanmar has been scrapped as the host of this year's Miss Grand International beauty pageant due to the civil war roiling the country, its organisers told AFP on Thursday.

Dozens of contestants were slated to arrive in the commercial hub Yangon in October to compete in the pageant, hosted by Thailand-based Miss Grand International.

"We confirm that MGI 2024 will no longer be held in Myanmar, due to the current situation," Ratchaphol Chantaratim, a representative for the company, told AFP.

An alternate venue "will be announced later", he said in an email.

Myanmar opened up to tourists in 2011 following decades of military rule, becoming popular with travellers seeking a new destination away from the well-trodden backpacker haunts of Southeast Asia.

However, foreign arrivals have plummeted since the military seized power again in 2021 and sparked a widespread armed uprising.

Around 2.7 million people have been displaced by the conflict, according to the United Nations, and the military has been accused of mass atrocities as it struggles to crush opposition to its rule.

Most of the fighting is taking place outside Yangon, but opponents of the junta regularly bomb buildings linked to the security forces and carry out assassinations of its supporters in the city.

A night-time curfew remains in place in the city of some eight million and security forces carry out regular raids and arrests of suspected dissidents.

Power blackouts frequently plunge whole neighbourhoods into darkness and access to ATMs and foreign exchange counters is patchy.

Many Western embassies advise against travel to Myanmar.

Australian football club Macarthur faced criticism in 2023 after travelling to play in Myanmar against official government advice.

Honduran model Cecilia Garcia -- who had been selected to represent her country at the "Miss Grand International" -- said this month she would not be travelling to Myanmar due to security risks.

At the 2021 edition of the event in Thailand, Myanmar contestant Thaw Nandar Aung publicly criticised the junta and its bloody crackdown on protests against its coup.

The former psychology student, better known by her professional name Han Lay, was refused permission to enter Thailand and spent days stranded at an airport in Bangkok.

She was later granted asylum in Canada. - AFP

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