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November 15, 2018

Me and MraukU

  • Professor Dr Aung Tun Thet

It has been a long time since I’ve dreamed of visiting MraukU. The famous cultural heritage in Myanmar includes Bagan-NyaungU, Sri Ksetra in Pyay, Hanlin in the upper part of Myanmar and MraukU in Rakhine State. Ceti and stupa, remains of palaces are still there as well as cultural diversity. The situation is the same in Toungoo and Bago. Actually, Myanmar has a rich history. Bamar, Rakhine and Mon ethnic groups lived under their own monarchs.
Four years ago, an arrangement was made to pay a visit to MraukU. At that time talks on economy were given in Sittwe. Together with my colleagues there were many audiences in U Ottama Hall. After the talks there were many questions raised. The next day another talks took place in Sittwe Univeristy.
The next morning, on board four vehicles, we started our journey to MraukU. Although there was rain in the morning, we were forecasting that the weather will have been fining and we decided to proceed our journey. But on the way beyond Ponnagyun, we faced floods and we had to stop for a while watching the situation. Due to the rise of water level gradually we were way back to Ponnagyun and took a temporary shelter at a teashop. Finally, we got the information that the road was blocked and we turned back towards Sittwe. I felt very sad because we had to abort our plan. I wished my daughter and wife being there. The next day, we took a flight to be back in Yangon. Other group members planned to back the next day, then, they were hit by a storm.

Literary Talks in Sittwe
When I met Myanmar Youth Entrepreneurial Society Chairman U Tun Tun Naing at a dinner, he requested me to hold public talks in Sittwe. He suggested me to pay a visit to MraukU after the talks. As my wife was eager to visit there, we decided to do so. I used to frequent Rakhine State and most were business travel but this time it would be different things.
We took a Sunday afternoon flight and my schedule was very tight as the talks would be held at 1.30 pm. Therefore, I made an appeal in advance to the Chief Minister U Nyi Pu who delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony. We went straight from the airport to U Ottama Hall. As soon as we reached the hall some arrangements for the public talks were made and I stepped up to the podium. The hall was occupied by a big crowd. My mind went back to four years ago. At that time, Minister U Kyaw Aye Thein told me to hold public talks. I promised him.
I gave talks on entrepreneurship. It is important to note that entrepreneurship encompasses economic, social and political affairs. There is only three requirements for achieving business success. The first element of success is risk and return, which are closely interrelated. Without risk there will be no return. Higher risk is associated with greater probability of higher return. The second is creativeness which is essential in today’s modern business world. Finally, about leadership.

Small and Medium-sized Enterprise
When we considered it compatible with the word of entrepreneur. But I think it is not perfect meaning because entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit. As I wish to improve the business of SMEs in Rakhine State I made some presentation on it. After my presentation questions and answers session followed. The questions were excellent. I had opportunity to add something into my talks by answering their questions.
After the public talks, Ko Lu Aye brought us to a hotel next to U Ottama Hall where we were going to put up. After taking a short break, we went to Mawlite Monttee (Rahine Snack) Shop to have Rakhine Monttee. The shop is famous in Sittwe. Its taste is different from the taste we used to have in Yangon. After having Monttee, we proceeded to the viewpoint popularly known as Point. In my last visit to Sittwe, I did not visit the place because it was then under construction. As it is located in the place where the Bay of Bengal and the mouth of the Kaladan River meet, it is very pleasant scenery. There were many people there to watch the sunset with a colourful sky in the background. Then we went back to the hotel and had a dinner at a restaurant at the viewpoint together with Rakhine State Minister U Kyaw Aye Thein and wife, U Tun Tun Naing and other executives.
The next morning we went to MraukU by car. We stopped over beyond Ponnagyun before reaching Kyauktaw. There we saw various local products. We crossed a bridge in Kyauktaw and paid homage to Buddha Image on the top of the mountain by taking steep steps. We continued our journey and paid homage to Maha Myat Muni Pagoda. There are numerous historical definition concerning the pagoda in the second chamber. After paying to the pagoda we reached MraukU to which I longed for visiting much. Entering into the town, I saw a moat filled with lotus and a defensive wall built of sandstone. We had a lunch at a restaurant. While in Sittwe, U Tun Tun Naing suggested that having Rakhine cuisine is a must do in Rakhine State. With the compliments of Ko Lu Aye we had a chance to taste it. Their cooking style is like Dawei cuisine. As they put much fish paste in the curry, it is the likes of me. After lunch we left for MraukU hotel. The hotel is neat, tidy and comfortable. After taking a rest for an hour, we again left the hotel for paying homage to pagodas. As there is a tradition in MraukU to pay homage to five pagodas, Ko Lu Aye brought us all the pagodas without fail. We paid homage to Koethaung Pagoda and Shitthaung Pagoda. In reality we need at least three or four days to pay homage to these pagodas to which we visited just within half a day. Like Bagan, there are many pagodas in MraukU. I can see generosity in renovating these pagodas but a chill of fear cast on me when I thought of getting lose these archaeological heritages. The first thought came into my mind after seeing these pagodas is pagodas in Bagan and edifices in Egypt, Greece and Italy. In some countries, there are little cultural heritages to be displayed but they know how to attract the attention of people. In our country, there are many attractions. Two staff from the Department of Archaeology explained us about the pagodas and we also had a chance to visit archaeology museum. They said that images and glazed earthen jars are on display at the museum and there are much more amount than that but due to space limitation, the heritages are to be kept in storerooms. I’m so sorry for knowing about the environing circumstances. There are no guards at the ancient pagodas. It seems the invaluable treasures are ignored.

Shitthaung and Koethaung Pagodas
The sunset was viewed from a mound near Shitthaung pagoda. The scene of MraukU is the same as in Bagan. The huge impact of extreme weather is seen on these edifies but as they are built of sandstone nearby river bank and not with brick, they are strong.
The tunnels at both Shitthaung and Koethaung pagodas are very breathtaking. The high standard architectural design not only ventilates the tunnel but also helps increase the lighting.
Rakhine history is divided into four parts – Danyawady, Waythali, Laymyo and MraukU. MraukU period is late than that of Bagan but Laymyo was contemporary with Bagan. Their cultural standard is very high and Buddhism rooted there since yore.
The above-mentioned four periods thrived in inland areas. Rakhine people have had contact with both Myanmar and Indians. They also had relations with Western countries. Sittwe was founded only after 1824, under British colonial rule. It is amazing to see that the inland areas were prosperous.
It was after 6 pm when we arrived the last pagoda in our itinerary. It was locked and we requested to get the keys and we had a chance to pay homage to the pagoda. After dinner, we went round the downtown. The whole city was silent. I wish there were cultural shows, fashion shows and food stalls as in Egypt. But the situation there seems the archaeological site is not the concern of locals. Depending on the treasure trove, ways and means for economic achievements should be sought. It is my knowledge that application has been submitted to UN for MraukU to be listed in World Heritage Site. It is our pride for Sri Ksetra was listed as the site. But it needs to be prosperous.
One of the weak points for MraukU is there is no airport in that area. It is said that the plot for the airfield has been designated. But there is no progress yet. Nobody takes responsibility for it. Thus, there are many questions coming into my mind: Why they are not interested in it? Why don’t they put their energies into it? What are their concerns? If the government cannot implement it why don’t they put the project into the hands of private sector?
The next day, we visited ordination hall near Shitthaung Pagoda, Portuguese Warehouse which is a sample of economic prosperity and the site for building airport but there is nothing there. It is regrettable.

Tired but Worth It
On our way back to Sittwe, we stopped over at Shwekyar garment shop. Owner Daw Aye told us about creating job opportunities for youths at the loom. Youths are to be encouraged for their enthusiasm for work. I asked them their situation but it was uncertain. This is why our situation in the encouragement index is bad. Laws, rules and regulations disappoint active youth who are willing to seek their development.
We arrived back in Yangon around 11 pm. We are tired but worth it.
Translated by Wallace

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