Once-bustling Inle Lake goes silent

The people who depend on visitors to the popular Myanmar tourism destination have seen their livelihoods hit hard by the turmoil of the pandemic and military coup.

Once-bustling Inle Lake goes silent

Like many who live and work around Myanmar’s Inle Lake, 24-year-old motorboat operator Win Moe Kyaw is struggling to make ends meet under the dual pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and the military coup.

He told RFA that this year he has seen less than a quarter of the usual customers. In past years, hundreds of thousands of people visited the proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site in Myanmar’s southern Shan State that is famous for its thriving natural beauty, particularly the floating plants that dot the surface.

Following the first wave of COVID-19 and February coup, international and domestic travel dried up and tourism services around the 45-square-mile lake were shut down.

Apart from fishing, some locals rely on a unique type of weaving – deriving thread from the lotus plants that grow in the lake. After collecting the lotus plants, the craftsperson extracts the fibers with a knife and soaks them in water. Weavers then use looms to spin the thread and add dyes to create vibrant colors.

The weavers also depend on tourism to sell their textiles, and not surprisingly the women-dominated industry has been struggling. One weaver, Mya Lay, recalled the way she and her colleagues would work together. "Forty looms are noisy," she said. Now the room she works in is quieter, with little business. "I'm a little bored," she said.

"If no visitors come here, there are no jobs for us at all. Even some business owners here need workers, they are scared to hire people in fear of potential exposure to the virus," Win Moe Kyaw said.

Before the coup, Win Moe Kyaw's wife, Mazin Mar Win, made woven cane mats but that business has been hit hard.

Several people run restaurants or small food stores – many of which have seen customers dwindle because even domestic tourists are unable to visit the lake.

“Visitors are no longer coming. I don't even clean away the spider webs anymore," said Tun Myat Lin, who owns the Golden Moon Restaurant in Heya Village, a now-closed must-visit site for tourists.

Win Moe Kyaw, like other motorboat operators in Sithar village - one of about 150 communities around the lake - has gone to nearby small towns to try to earn money through odd jobs in construction and landscaping and as a laborer and fish monger. But because of nearby gunfire and explosions, he stopped going.

For now, Win Moe Kyaw, his wife and 2-year-old son are just hoping to live and work in safety.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

What's Your Reaction?


Next Article

Indonesian envoy: ASEAN bars Myanmar junta chief from upcoming summit

The decision comes after Myanmar's military refuses to allow the bloc's envoy to meet all parties as was agreed.

Indonesian envoy: ASEAN bars Myanmar junta chief from upcoming summit

Updated at 6:25 p.m. ET on 2021-10-15

Southeast Asian foreign ministers decided on Friday not to allow the Burmese junta chief to attend an upcoming ASEAN summit, an Indonesian diplomat said about a rare move by the regional bloc, which has been criticized for its collective dithering in response to post-coup Myanmar.

The top diplomats of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations took the decision at an emergency virtual meeting, after Myanmar’s military government this week backtracked on allowing ASEAN’s special envoy to meet with all parties in the country, including jailed opposition leaders.

After Friday’s meeting, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that ASEAN member Myanmar had made no progress in implementing the bloc’s five-point roadmap to putting the country back on a path to peace and democracy.

“Indonesia proposed [that] the participation of Myanmar at the summits should not be represented at the political level until Myanmar restores its democracy through an inclusive process,” Retno said in a message posted on Twitter.

BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, asked Ade Padmo Sarwono, Indonesia’s envoy to ASEAN, whether the bloc’s members had decided against inviting Senior Gen, Min Aung Hlaing – the Burmese junta chief – to the Oct. 26-28 summit.

“Read Retno’s tweet,” he replied.

BenarNews asked him whether other ASEAN members had the same position as Retno’s.

“Yes,” he answered.

In the hours before the region’s top diplomats huddled for their emergency meeting, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah warned that Kuala Lumpur would press to have Min Aung Hlaing excluded from the summit, if needed.

“Malaysia’s stand is clear and I will repeat that if there is no significant progress in the implementation of the five-point consensus, the junta chief helming the nation should not be invited to the ASEAN summit,” he told reporters.

The junta leader had agreed to the consensus at an April meeting in Jakarta that was called to discuss the situation in Myanmar after he led the military in a Feb. 1 coup that toppled an elected government.

Min Aung Hlaing has tested other ASEAN members’ patience since leading the coup and throwing Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy government in jail. During the more than eight months since, Burmese security forces have killed close to 1,180 people, mostly anti-coup protesters.

ASEAN was finally pushed to deliver its sharpest response to the Myanmar junta. The 10-member bloc did not immediately issue a statement after the Friday meeting, but one was expected on Saturday.

Several news sites on Friday, citing unnamed sources, corroborated what the Indonesian diplomat Ade said. Some media outlets said that Wunna Maung Lwin, the junta-appointed foreign minister, attended Friday’s meeting.

Some news agencies, also citing unnamed sources, said ASEAN would invite a “non-political figure” to represent Myanmar at the meeting.

The emergency meeting of foreign ministers was called by Brunei, which currently holds the bloc’s revolving chairmanship.

Until now, Myanmar military-appointed officials have participated in all ASEAN sub-meetings since the coup. The junta has also splashed photographs of these virtual ASEAN gatherings on state media and social media, all in an attempt to gain legitimacy.

Political analysts and rights groups had said that was tantamount to recognizing the military government.

Credibility gap

For this reason and for its legendary delays in arriving at decisions, ASEAN was on the verge of losing credibility.

This was “the cost of its dithering and indecision on the complex and fast-evolving geopolitical environment,” former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa recently told The Jakarta Post.

The regional bloc works by consensus, which is why critics have called it ineffective. Some diplomats in the region had said that Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand were blocking taking stern action against the Myanmar junta.

It took the bloc more than a hundred days to agree on who would be special envoy to Myanmar. During that time, ASEAN also watered down a United Nations resolution calling for an arms embargo on Myanmar.

Throughout this period of indecision, Burmese security forces continued to shoot at and kill anti-coup protesters.

On Thursday, two analysts told BenarNews that they did not think ASEAN member-states would agree to block Min Aung Hlaing from the summit – or at least not agree on this at the emergency meeting.

Still, it was clear during the past two weeks that Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines were against allowing the leader of the Myanmar coup into the summit because he was not cooperating with ASEAN envoy to Myanmar Erywan Yusof.

Meanwhile, a host of countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, on Friday issued a “Joint Statement of Support for the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar.”

They said they “are committed to supporting his efforts to facilitate Myanmar’s full and urgent implementation of the five-point consensus, as decided by ASEAN leaders and the Commander in Chief of the Myanmar military.”

“We emphasize support for the objectives of Dato Erywan’s visit, including his intention to meet all parties in line with the Five-Point Consensus, and call on the regime to facilitate his access. We reiterate our support for the Special Envoy role going forward, and stand ready to support ASEAN’s efforts across Chairs,” the statement said.

ASEAN’s decisive move, after months, to deliver its sharpest rebuke to the Myanmar junta won plaudits from some analysts and on social media.

Simon Adams, president of the Center for Victims of Torture, an organization that treats torture survivors and does human rights advocacy, called it “a good decision by ASEAN” to not allow the junta chief into the summit.

“A junta that is responsible for shooting down protesters, mass arrests and overseeing the torture of detainees should not be allowed to pretend that it has diplomatic credibility,” said Adams.

“Myanmar’s generals belong in handcuffs not at ASEAN meetings. It’s time for ASEAN to give the 5-point consensus some teeth.”

Mizanur Rahman, commissioner of the Bangladesh Securities & Exchange Commission, said on Twitter: “ASEAN seems to have exceeded my expectations."

The Civil Disobedience Movement, led by professionals in Myanmar, thanked ASEAN.

“You made the right decision not to invite treasoner-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing. He committed treason against the country and he is a terrorist,” the group said in a tweet.

“He doesn’t deserve to be sitting at the ASEAN meeting.”

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.