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.
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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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