Myanmar: Poor in Wealth; Rich in
Before the MV Explorer docked in the country of
felt as if I had been briefed, fairly extensively, about the amount of
to be found in this particular country. As
a result I tried to picture in my mind how Myanmar
would look in
contrast to the other countries that I had been fortunate enough to
visit. Unfortunately, I soon learned that
could really prepare a person to witness the type of poverty that
the Myanmar capital city of Myanmar, Yangon.
At a first
glance the city of Yangon seemed to be an urban space that was also a
vernacular space. I found thousands of
people squatting on the city’s busiest streets trying to sell anything
possibly could, from old cassette tapes to chewing tobacco. From what I could gather from the local
people and my tour guide there was only one shopping mall in the entire
city, meaning that most western fashion and many other global products
available to the Burmese people. In
fact, most Burmese urbanites still wore the traditional Burmese longgi. Products that have become everyday needs in
many global societies such as, cell phones, cars, compact discs, and
are still very unaffordable and rare in Myanmar.
though Yangon is very far from becoming a global city it has recently
to foreign investment. This means that
big, western style hotels are now becoming part of Yangon.
This shows that the global phenomenon of
tourism is slowly coming to Yangon, which means that the global culture
tourism will also be coming into the city.
why Myanmar is only now opening its borders to foreign investment is
the Myanmar government is a military regime, which regulates all
influence. The military has had the
power to shape Yangon in all ways, not just economically.
In fact, Donald Seekins wrote in his article
entitled, The State and the City: 1988 and the Transformation of
that the Myanmar government has removed between 450,000 to 500,000
their homes in Yangon and forced these people to move to the outskirts
town. Unfortunately, not only were
these people forced to leave their city homes, but many times the new
establishments did not even have basic living needs.
Yangon is a very poor, sheltered, and vernacular city, but it is also a
that is very rich in culture, and tradition, a trait that is becoming
find with the spread of globalization. Unfortunately,
one reason why the cities of Myanmar have
the ability to
stay rich in their own culture is because the military regime
(up until recently) kept out all foreign investment, and has had the
shape Yangon in whichever manner it wishes. For
about 500,000 displaced Burmese people this type of
hurt their urban lives.