In sleepy Mawlamyine, Myanmar youths can’t wait to leave as city becomes shadow of its former self

Mawlamyine (or Moulmein) in Myanmar is one of those Southeast Asian cities like Sandakan (Malaysia), Bacolod (Philippines) and Songkhla (Thailand) – where the past looms large but the present seems faded and unpromising. The kinds of places that young people yearn to leave in search of jobs and money.

Home to just under 300,000 residents, the capital city of the three-million-strong Mon State has a slightly forlorn, neglected air. After all, its glory years were well over 150 years ago, between 1826 and 1852.

Back then, the British transformed a sleepy port city at the confluence of the Salween, Ataran and Gyaing Rivers into the capital of their Burmese possessions on the Tenasserim coast.

Present-day Mawlamyine is a six-hour overland journey from Yangon. It used to be a much more arduous trip, but improvements in the national motorways and several new bridges have brought the two closer.

However, that has not led to a significant increase in industries or jobs. Instead, it seems to have made it easier for people to leave.

Moreover, with the main border crossing at Mae Sot just four hours to the east (along a recently upgraded highway); Thailand, with its higher pay (reportedly some US$8 to 10 per day, more than double anything available in Myanmar) has become even more accessible.

Source: South China Morning Post

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