Myanmar (Burma) – Revisiting Mawlamyaing — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Nay Ye Aung
George Orwell’s world renowned story Shooting an Elephant took place in Moulmein, now called Mawlamyaing, which is located in lower Myanmar. Mawlamayaing is well-known for its religious landscape comprised of tourist-drawing temples, a strong Buddhist population, and a rich history dating back to the founding of the first Myanmar empire, which conquered all neighboring regions. Ironically enough, this part of Myanmar where an undefeated empire was found is best known to the world through a story which talks about the country under the rule of British Empire.
Since sanctions were lifted in 2014, tourism here in Myanmar has been booming. Mawlamyaing is currently a popular sightseeing spot in the country. As part of my job I supported the launch of my client’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program in Mawlamyaing. The program was created to refurbish the world’s biggest reclining Buddha image. This leg of my client’s CSR project aims to increase tourism and to create more jobs for the people in the region. Of course, helping to maintain a major tourist site is mutually beneficial for the client and the community. The client’s reputation is improved; the community can appreciate the newly maintained reclining Buddha.
Both days of the program’s work took place in scorching hot 90ºF weather. The first day was a cleanup day: people from surrounding villages and my client’s employees, totaling up to some hundreds of people, joined together to clean up, mop, and wash the shrines, statues, and images inside the Reclining Buddha. For some, it was great karma. For others, it was good community service. The second day commemorated the donation of some millions in Baht (Thai Currency) to the monastery. The ceremony was graced by government ministers, executives from the company, and journalists.
It was a two-day trip to Mawlamyaing. During the two days, I couldn’t recognize the town from what I remember. There have been significant developments with small and local businesses. Foreign investment is pouring in. Everyone is equipped with mobile phones. Every family in Mawlamyaing owns at least one motorcycle. The government is pushing to make primary education mandatory. The future looks quite bright for Mawlamyaing.
Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to contribute to The North Star Reports — HLIANG@CSS.EDU
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The North Star Reports: The Middle Ground Journal’s collaborative outreach program with K-12 classes around the world. We acknowledge North Star Academy of Duluth, Minnesota as our inaugural partner school, and the flagship of our K-12 outreach program. We also welcome Duluth East High School and other schools around the world. The North Star Reports has flourished since 2012. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
The North Star Reports will share brief dispatches from our student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. Student interns have reported from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their dispatches, and report on their interactions with the North Star Reports students and teachers.
Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA
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20 responses to “Myanmar (Burma) – Revisiting Mawlamyaing — The North Star Reports, sponsored by The Middle Ground Journal. By Nay Ye Aung”
Reblogged this on Professor Liang 梁弘明教授 and commented:
from our correspondent in Myanmar (Burma)!
It sounds like you have a really interesting job! Your article is a testament to what people can accomplish if they work together towards a common goal. Thanks for sharing your experience.
This was a very interesting story and I think it’s awesome you got to go there and do all of those things. I’m sure helping out the community was very beneficial. I enjoyed the pictures and it was so much easier to visualize what you were talking about seeing them. I have never even heard of the town you were in so it was interesting to find some facts out about it.
This article struck me because the town you visited I haven’t heard of and its always fun to learn about places you never even knew existed! The pictures are beautiful and your job sounds awesome. The good karma and community service also sounds fun because they are working to make their community better for themselves and others who visit.
You are doing great work, and no doubt gaining some great experience. You are quite right when saying that the future looks bright, and it must give you a good feeling to know that you are a part of that reason for things improving.
I really enjoyed the article and your noticing the developments in the places you went! Seeing that they’re pushing education is something that I find to be very beneficial and good for the community as a whole. Also all the community service sounds like a wonderful experience. It seems like it would be interesting to go back sometime in the future and see again how they’ve developed some more!
This was a lovely read; I enjoyed your observations of the change within the area and the step-by-step guide to the project. It’s always a good feeling when a community bands together (for their own reasons) and reading that had brightened my day a bit. I personally know nothing (except for what I have learned through this article) about Myanmar, so thank you for sharing your experience and perspective. I think it would be interesting to see how it has changed/developed 10 years from now.
It’s great that Myanmar is becoming such a great tourist spot! Coming from a place where many tourists come I know how well that impacts the economy and community positively!
After reading this article, it makes me wonder if the people of Myanmar ever get frustrated with the increase of tourists that are being drawn to Myanmar? On the other hand, this article also shows me that there is so much hope for places that may be experiencing hardships within their communities.
Sounds like an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing! I would love to have the chance someday to visit Burma and see how the region has changed since your trip.
It sounds like a wonderful experience, and it is nice to see how the government wants to implement education it really shows how they want a better future and how they are getting there. Great article and also great pictures!
It is awesome to hear that places around the world are making gains and improving their lifestyles. As for the temperature, 90 degrees sounds perfect right now as I am wrapped in a blanket and it is snowing outside.
It seems like you must have had one interesting job to bring you all the way there! It always makes me happy to think about other places in the world taking a turn for the better. I’m sure the tourism brings in a lot of money that could help greatly!
Wow that is awesome! It is great to see the volunteers to help and wanting to help improve. It was great of you to show pictures as well. I’m glad to see that that place is turning around.
I think Duluth is an example of an economy boosted by tourism. As the factories closed, the town suffered. But since the 70’s and 80’s Duluth has transformed into a hub of tourism. (of course that’s the narrative Duluth loves to share). Regardless, I like the quote “Ironically enough, this part of Myanmar where an undefeated empire was found is best known to the world through a story which talks about the country under the rule of British Empire.” It’s important for people to tell their own story, but this is often difficult in tourism. I hope Myanmar can do so though.
Tourism is undoubtedly good for the local economy, bringing in jobs and money for the people of the areas. How is that same tourism changing the culture of the local region? Is the local culture changing as ideas from outsiders, especially westerners, come in? What a lovely statue though, it is great that such a large old religious statue can be refurbished and saved from the ravages of time. This is good for local people, as well as outsiders who have the chance to see something truly awe inspiring.
This is a very interesting read! I loved learning so much about Myanmar and it truly is a fascinating country. The pictures brought the article to life. It seems like your job was very fascinating and I am kind of jealous of the work you got to. I wish I could do that.
Wow what a fascinating article! It was very interesting to learn about Myanmar a place that I have only seen on a map. I find it fascinating that you actually helped out with the project of the Buddha which I guessing was a huge thing for the community. With the booming in tourism did you see any other cultural changes other than just cellphones and the idea of making school mandatory? Great Article!
It was great reading about the positive changes that happened during your trip! People coming together is always a powerful force. The first picture really grabbed my attention just because of the incredible scale of the monument. I would be interested in learning about the actual size of the world’s largest reclining Buddha because for some reason I always enjoy things that are excessively large! I had never really considered Myanmar(Burma) much of a tourist destination but just from the first picture I can see how tourism there is on the rise. Thank you for the article!
Thank you for this account of your journey to Myanmar. The fact that the place for us Westerners is most known from a story from the colonial era and not as the cradle of an empire pretty clearly show how ethnocentric we are when it comes history. That the site has a rich history that started long before the arrival of the British is ignored, probably since we find it closer culturally to talk about the colonial time as the British are seen more like a part of “our” group and not like “others”. I still find it encouraging to hear about the new technology that has arrived to the hands of the residents of Mawlamyaing. I guess that globalization is by no means entirely positive, but if inflow of foreign capital reaches the pockets of ordinary citizens and makes them able to increase their standard of living I would say that is one of the most beneficial effects of a more interconnected planet.