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60th Anniversary of Indonesia~Myanmar

Country’s oldest living person prepares for 118th birthday

By Phyo Wai Kyaw
September 13 - 19, 2010

Daw Mya Kyi, 117, smokes a cheroot at her home in Paukchangone village, Amarapura township, on August 14. Pic: Phyo Wai Kyaw

SHE’S Myanmar’s oldest “grandma” – and possibly the oldest living person in the world. But apwar Daw Mya Kyi, preparing for her 118th birthday next month, refuses to take Western medicine and continues to smoke two cheroots every day, a habit she has had since she was “very young”.

“I just take thwesay (blood tonic), a Myanmar traditional medicine, one time a day. I hate English medicine, pills. I also use Myanmar balm,” she told The Myanmar Times in a recent interview.

“I don’t eat meat any more; I just eat a little rice and vegetables that the Sayadaw from the monastery gives me twice a day.”

She also recites a long-life Buddhist mantra each day.
“I wish I could write down the words to show you but I can’t because I never stayed at school long enough. When I was young, I used to run away from school all the time. Now I want to learn as much as I can.”

Daw Mya Kyi’s latest National Registration Card (NRC), which she received in November 2007 from the Department of Immigration and National Registration, says she was born on the first waxing day of Thadingyut in 1254 – or October 9, 1892 in the Gregorian (Western) calendar.

Twice a widower with three daughters, one of whom has already passed away, Daw Mya Kyi says she can’t remember how many grandchildren – let alone great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren – she has.

Today she lives alone in a small house inside a monastery compound in Paukchangone village, Amarapura township, about one hour south of Mandalay.

While she admits she is now “a bit deaf”, Daw Mya Kyi’s eyesight is sharp. She rarely sleeps in long stretches, just napping occasionally.

She is very attached to the monastery in which she lives, and donates all the money she receives from well-wishers to the monks.

As a result of press coverage over the past few years, she has started to receive a steady stream of visitors wanting to pay respect and make an offering to her.

“I love to donate as much as I can. Whenever I get money, I always think, ‘What I should I donate?’ It’s all I really care about these days. I don’t really need anything myself, just a little food, so I offer alms to the monks and I also donated a triangular brass gong and other things for the monastery.”

If Daw Mya Kyi’s identity card is correct, she is more than four years older than the oldest verified living person, France’s Eugénie Blanchard, who was 114 years and 206 days as of September 10.

An official from the Department of Social Welfare said it would take a strong concerted effort from several government departments to meet international-standard age verification criteria and have Daw Mya Kyi officially recognised as the world’s oldest living person.