A feasibility study will begin this month for planned upgrades to Siphyuthaung village in Bago division, say project leaders. The village is in Taungoo district on the banks of the Sittaung River.
U Tin Htoo Sein and his brother, architect U Myo Myint Sein, are overseeing the project, which they hope will go beyond just physical changes to the struggling village that also happens to be their father’s hometown.
“This approach is quite different from the usual way of upgrading a rural village. What is usually included in the process is an upgrade of the infrastructure such as schools, clinics and houses and that’s all. But what we want to do with this approach is to learn about the culture and lives of the people in this village and if possible, to change the culture of the residents there. We have to raise the living standards of the people, we need to help create a modern way of thinking about society,” U Tin Htoo Sein told The Myanmar Times last week.
U Tin Htoo Sein believes that the proposed upgrades will help keep workers and families in the rural town from urban migration. He hopes to combat the trend he sees in Myanmar of people moving to major cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, drawn in largely by greater employment opportunities and lack of rural development.
“What I want to do is to reverse that trend of people moving from the country to the city, especially for middle class people. To do this we need to upgrade the living standards of the people in rural areas,” he said, adding that this is the big question to think about and also makes research for urban and rural city development.
U Tin Htoo Sein said that developed countries such as Japan and Ireland have the same infrastructure in cities and on the outskirts. Infrastructure like electricity, clinics and mini-markets exist in both areas, making them equally liveable.
He also admitted that a plan this ambitious would take the work of numerous groups.
“We can implement this plan with the help of the Bago township authorities. But this project cannot be competed with just the government, it will also require international aid,” he said.
U Tin Htoo Sein is a seaman by trade but the addition of his brother to the project is tremendously promising.
U Myo Myint Sein served as the first professor in the architecture department of Yangon University. After his retirement he relocated to California where he lives. He is registered with the American Institute of Architecture and has been working in the field for more than 30 years.