The Children of Yangon

About 40 years ago, Lew Kuan Yew’s word spread by radio around the world and this is roughly what he said, “I will develop Singapore like Rangoon”. My guide in Yangon, Mr. Auw (real name withheld for security reason) shared with me what his father told him about once the most beautiful city in Asia.

Mr. Auw also share with me the statement made by his 12 year-old kid recently, “General Aung San must be making a grave decision for fighting the independent from British for Myanmar”.

When he quizzed the child for making such statement, the child said this, “We are far better off under British, look at all those old colonial building and roads, the infrastructure, look at what we achieve today, we achieved nothing and life is so bad under our own ruler”.

Mr. Auw was left speechless yet he has to agree with his kid. “Our developments were far more systematic during the colonial time, but now, everything is in total disarray”.

The Street of Yangon

I arrived in Yangon on the 2nd June 2008. I am not here to condemn this nation which I hardly has any interest, I was here as part of the Kijang Care Humanitarian Mission for the Nargis Cyclone. Nevertheless, Yangon is true to what being said and it is sad to see such a once glorious city becoming the victim of power greedy military dictator.

It took four attempts from us before we managed to get our visa. But once we arrived at the modern but small airport, we find it is much easier to manoeuvre and there are almost none military present in the city. At least none to be seen until we make our attempt to pass in front of the house where Aung San Su Kyi is being held.

The most familiar views are thousands upon thousands of people in sarong. The taxi drivers, the trishaw men, the hawkers, the school children, the businessmen and almost everybody wearing sarong.

I talk to Dr. Min (Real name being held for security reason), a Myanmar trained Doctor who currently serving for a Dutch NGO in Myanmar about the statement made by Mr. Auw’s kid and Dr. Min agreed that Myanmar is better off under the colonial rule.

Minimum wages for government servant in Myanmar is USD30 per month and normal wages for a doctor in Myanmar is USD90 per month. One of the International Company that stood tall in Myanmar is Malaysian own Petronas. Petronas is drilling natural gas in Myanmar waters.

The Orphans of Talaa

Petronas also supply fuel for Myanmar in which I was told that the Myanmar government without fail owe Petronas about USD100 million each year.
Nevertheless, Myanmar has a very low crime rate. Despite very rare authority present around Yangon, it is actually a very safe city. The sense of security can be seen where the shops selling precious stone and gold are not guarded by any security at all.

It is also normal to see people carrying a lot of cash in a plastic bag as you have to pay for everything in cash, even if you want to buy a car. Mind you, car is so damn expensive, a 1970’s model of Datsun can still cost buyer USD10,000.

A senior member of Malaysian Embassy in Myanmar gave me two reason why the crime rate is never a problem in the city, one is because no motorcycle allowed in the city and second is because once you are caught, you will have to stay over a year in the prison before they ever bother the open an investigation paper. Bear in mind the rotten state of the prison.

I always read about how beautiful Yangon is, nevertheless, the only beauty I found was in the people of Myanmar. Yangon is a dilapidated city. It is a has been city and what is left are only ruins not due to the cyclone but bad governance.

In Search of Support from Foreign Humanitarian Groups

Only after ten minutes drive from the town centre, the roadside are filled with bamboo huts where those people who had suffered from decades of ruthless regime governing them found their shelter.

Tourist almost non-existent and there are no foreigner taking photos of those pagodas. I tried to email my stories back to Malaysia only to find that all gateway to Yahoo and GMail are block by the government. Internet access is limited and very slow making it almost impossible to update my weblog from there. Do not even dream of roaming international mobile services.

A sim card for mobile cost USD2,000 while Internet access installation cost USD1,500. Communication via the modern technology is almost impossible unless you are a rich man. Middles class do not exist in the society. People of Myanmar are either rich or poor.

It was on my second day in Yangon when we got the news of the fuel hike in Malaysia. Nevertheless, it was the very moment I step my foot in the city when I told those around me that Yangon is what we can anticipate if we keep Abdullah in power for the next decade.

Perhaps, the fuel hike is Abdullah’s way of Myamarising Malaysia. Myanmarisation of Malaysia will begin with the fuel hike and this will cause the uprising of Malaysians who will find it unbearable. Abdullah anticipate Malaysian to take to the streets in protest. This will provide him with the window of opportunity to abuse the military and force for some sort of intervention that will result in suspending the constitution. Abdullah than can happily sleep in power without ever bother to think of facing elimination from UMNO party contest and also Malaysia General Election.

As I walked pass the security at Yangon International Airport, my heart is with those friendly people of Myanmar. My prayer will always be with my Brother Auw, the rich businessman who willing to spend whatever he has to fight for democratic government in Myanmar, the two kids from the street of once the proud Scott Market whom willing to accept me as a friend and to the spirits of those unburied bodies by the Irrawady Delta.

After all that I have seen, I told myself, I shall go back and bring my kids and wife to somewhere expensive while we can still afford it and that place shall be one of those Petrol Station in Malaysia.

Blogger Kickdefella with The Victims of Nargis in Chunyangoon

See new photo collection titled “Myanmar” at Kickdefella Photo Journal