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A Letter from My Village
Opinion

 

A Letter from My Village

By Wagaru Mon
Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hope is the best mental inspiration for everyone in the world. Burma’s hope for lasting peace is not a special case after having experienced over twenty years of political misery. During my three day visit to Rangoon, the nation’s former capital, I saw people begin selling their wares at street stalls as the sun rose each day. Every morning I observed hope in the faces of theses street merchants, but I also noted the fear that was written on their faces. This piece is a reflection of my visit to Burma after having spent six thousand nights away from my home country. For readers who wish to taste the quality of journalism, I hope to offer an honest assessment. However, the picture I have seen may be interpreted in different perspectives. I offer my good faith towards honest journalism that can freely express truth. Readers may form their own judgment regarding the context and content.

Buddha status largest in the world in Mudon Township. (Photo:Kaowao)

I come from Mudon Township in Mon State. My village is small in land but large in its population of people who have resided there in the past one hundred and thirty years. The village is currently composed of over nine hundred households and five thousand people. The villagers built their own high school but the school’s teachers are appointed by the government. A small clinic is open as a private business but there are over ten local-traditional health workers in the village. Furthermore, there are nine major Buddhist monasteries and two minor temples in the village. Almost all the villagers are farmers or gardeners except for a few street stall owners. I do not believe the villagers are concerned with who runs the government so long as they are free to farm and garden without trouble. The hope for these farmers is simple—work on the farm with little income but maintain family, culture and tradition. In contrast, the younger generation has new hopes. They hope to use mobile phones, purchase motorbikes or private cars and reside in a nice house either in the village or a local town. The village has vast paddy fields and large rubber plantations to offer the younger generation. I have noticed that beer and other western alcohols are sold in the local cafes and shops. Thai food is also prepared and sold by the street vendors. Local youth wear jeans like those worn by their contemporaries in New York and Sydney. The time has come for a new hope for those who look at new opportunities in the city. I have been told that over thirty young people from the village have graduated from university in the last few years. I don’t hear much dialogue about “democracy, human rights and the rule of law” in my village but I have heard talk of “money, business and land ownership” amongst those around my age. Most of my old friends have asked me to buy land and build a house in the village, but I do not have an answer for them at this stage.

Buddha status largest in the world in Mudon Township. (Photo:Kaowao)

Young men and women have spoken out about the local administration system. At the local village’s administrator election they voted for the honest man with little education and rejected the cunning man with education. This is a sign of openness within a new system. Women, mostly those above forty, have two to five children and cope well with the cost of living. In fact, most mothers are saving money with the aspiration to send their children to the local university. This was not a pattern of the village in the late 1990s.

Older members of the village enjoy the golden times of everyday life. They routinely visit local homes when ceremonies are held. They meet at least three to five times each week at social events and family ceremonies, such as funeral services and naming ceremonies, that are held throughout the village. Students, however, are often tirelessly catching up on homework both in Burmese and English. Private home academic tutoring is open on every corner of the street and surprisingly even in the small village of my parent’s home. I felt sorry for the children who now have less time to play because their parents force them to attend the afterschool tutoring that can lead them to pass their examinations with higher marks.

I listened to the voices of the villagers’ hearts and heard that the locals are eager for a new political system. They want a good leader, a good villager headman and good policemen. They support leaders who care about land and the local forestry. They have asked leaders for better healthcare and a better education system. They asked me to train them to have better informed community leaders in the village. I was very impressed that my old friends were working hard under the old, odd political system. They have installed local electricity, a power plant and a mobile phone network, constructed local roads and built a funeral hall for the villagers.

On the way home from Mudon Township to Rangoon I prayed for the fate of my friends in the village who are seeking the freedom that I myself have in Australia. I have the courage of the villagers and their hopes because they do not speak out unless they trust someone from the other side.

I hold an everlasting hope that a local hospital with sufficient medical equipment and medical professionals can be built in the village. I feel shameful that I live in a developed country with full access to medical and healthcare centers while the village I was born in has little access to essential healthcare services.

My hope is that local people will have the capacity and resources to solve their future problems. This is the hard question that I asked myself during my flight back to Australia—what shall happen to my village in the future? The local government system shall be fixed. Good governance for the local land system shall be maintained over the next ten years. A local healthcare center shall be built with new medical facilities. A direct election for the local governor shall be held and laws passed in the local parliament. The local Mon State university shall expand to include a medical school. Land care and water resources shall be developed in the near future. It is a hopeful time.

I do not have faith that the government alone can address the fundamental issues, therefore the local community and business and religious leaders shall play a key role. I am certain that there are over three hundred high school graduates in my village. I do not believe that all these young people can enter the local university or another college in Burma. Thus, they must be supported to pursue vocational skill training or other options.

Mon State is my native place. I do not shy away from advocating for better education, healthcare and land care systems for my native state. Good systems shall be discussed among leaders and village representatives. A village of over five hundred households shall install a local medical clinic, technical college and high school. I do not understand how the “democracy and human rights” mantra can work if local children lack access to good education and healthcare systems during my lifetime. I urge our leaders to clarify what form of government they are in charge of during their own time.

The village system is one of the most useful and best community ways of life. If we lose the village system and its communal culture and tradition, we lose everything for the next generation. The ethnic Mon’s value of family rests above modern theories of politics. Leaders must listen to villagers if we are to have a better outcome in the new system. I salute my old friends from my village who have taken much pain for a greater long-term gain.

 



 

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