State Counsellor visits Pearl Island, Lampi Marine National Park, meets Salon ethnic people

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is welcomed by Salon ethnic people with their traditional performance in Ma Gyun Galet Salon (Moken) Village, Myeik. Photo: Thet Aung

The Chairperson of the Central Committee for Development of Border Areas and National Races, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who was in Myeik Town, Taninthayi Region arrived to Bokpyin Township Pearl Island by Tatmadaw helicopter yesterday morning. She was accompanied by Union Ministers Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe, Lt-Gen Ye Aung, U Min Thu and U Ohn Win, Peace Commission Chairman Dr. Tin Myo Win, Deputy Minister U Hla Maw Oo and officials.
At Pearl Island, the Sate Counsellor inspected the oyster breeding, insertion of nucleus into the oyster and stages of pearl production conducted by Myanma Pearl Enterprise, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
The State Counsellor then cordially greeted staffs working in Pearl Island and invited them to submit their requirements and directed the officials to apply for funds to repair and maintain the staff houses.
Myanma Pearl Enterprise had been culturing pearl in Pearl Island starting from 1963. State-own Myanma Pearl Enterprise also started joint venture pearl culture work with local and foreign companies starting from year 2000 in Magyipin Hsaung and Zinyaw islands in Bokpyin Township; Jalan, Nga Lone Laphe, St. Luke, Myaukni and Myuakphyu islands in Kawthoung Township; Nat Tha Mee Ye Dwin, Pyin Sa Bu, Do Me and Don Pa Le islands in Kyunsu Township; and Mali Island in Palaw Township.
Arrangements were made for local and foreign visitors to visit the pearl farms and from 2018 October to 2019 January more than K 32 million of income was achieved through travel related jobs.

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visits the pearl farm on the Pearl Island, Bokpyin Township in Taninthayi Region.  Photo: Thet Aung

The State Counsellor and party then inspected islands in Bokpyin and Kawthoung townships by speed boat and arrived to Wa Ale Island in Lampi Marine National Park where Forest Department Director-General Dr. Nyi Nyi Kyaw explained about particulars of Lampi Marine National Park and works conducted for development of nature based travel in Lampi Marine National Park.
Lampi Marine National Park is situated in Taninthayi Region Bokpyin and Kawthoung townships covering an area of 50,528.73 acres. It was designated as a marine national park in 1996 and is the one and only marine national park in Myanmar. It was designated as ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003 and had evergreen forests, mangroves, sand banks, coral reefs and underwater grasses in it. Next, State Counsellor and party arrived to Kawthoung Township Ma Gyun Galet Salon (Moken) village and met with the local populace.

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi observes various types of pearls at the pearl farm on the Pearl Island, Bokpyin Township in Taninthayi Region yesterday.  Photo: Thet Aung

At the meeting, the State Counsellor said our country is a union and it is a wide union. However wide and big, all ethnic people are of equal importance and even though the numbers of Salons are not much compared to the most populous ethnic Bamas, they are equally important and valued. That is why the government would want to work for the benefit of all Salone ethnic people.
In order to do this, it is important to know the requirements. It isn’t easy to understand from afar the real situation even if many reports were given. Therefore, we came so that people can take the opportunity to tell about their requirements. Please tell openly what you need while we are here, said the State Counsellor.
Our country’s development is mainly dependent on the trust between the people and the government. It will be difficult to achieve success if there is no trust.
We want Salon ethnic people to develop. We want to create opportunities for ethnic Salon people to maintain their culture and practices. All ethnic people are to value their cultures and every culture had valuables. However it needs to develop in accordance to the time. At this meeting we want Salon ethnic people to openly tell of their requirement to develop and improve their lives so that we can help. We’ll do the best we can and if there are things that could not be done immediately, we’ll try to do it as soon as possible. It is very important for all of us to discuss with trust in one another.
We learnt that Salon ethnic people are very resilient and courageous. Do not feel small because you are not as developed as other ethnic nationals. All had their strengths and weaknesses. Some may be visually rich then you are but they have many weaknesses that you didn’t see. So believe in yourself. We want Salon ethnic people to preserve and maintain their traditions and practices. Face life with courage.
There are two important things. One is health. Our Salon ethnic people should take care of their health. Only when you are healthy can you stand on your own feet in the future.

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi presents food for local Salon people through two representatives of Ma Gyun Galet Salon (Moken) village, Kawthoung Township, yesterday. photo: mna

Second is education. We’ll need to give good education to Salon youths. Only then can they have the ability to retain their good cultures and traditions. They’ll have the ability to progress and develop according to the time and era. Tell us of your requirements in education. Our education system may not be appropriate for Salon ethnic people. If that is so we’ll change where it should be changed. Education is not something that you get in the school only. The skills and abilities of your traditions are also education. Salon ethnic people are experts in jobs related to the sea. It is important to possess these skills. Getting an education is maintaining the traditional skills and to obtain new expertise. So please openly tell us about your education and other requirements said the State Counsellor.

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State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi meets with local residents in Ma Gyun Galet Salon (Moken) Village, Kawthoung Township yesterday. Photo: MNA

Salon Ethnic people and local populace then spoke of meeting the wish of elderly Salon ethnic people who want to return to their places of birth, to designate rules and regulations for fishing boats to abide by rules on fishing nets to maintain the traditional small scale fishing practices, create work opportunities for long term livelihood, fulfill requirement in nurses and doctors, conduct practical research on ten islands where Salon ethnic people live and conduct arrangements for long term development, arrange travel businesses that directly benefits Salon ethnic people, recognize youth welfare groups in Salon villages, permitting local visitors to stay overnight in Salon villages, recognize the name of Nyaung Whee village and provide a clinic and a middle school and to construct mobile phone communication tower in Ma Gyun Galet Salon Village.
The State Counsellor responded and said systematic study of vocational works will be conducted for the livelihood of the local populace. Emphasis will be placed toward providing health care as soon as possible. Field inspection and study of ten Salon islands will be conducted by a team formed with five ministries and long term plans will be formulated and implemented, said the State Counsellor. The State Counsellor also explained in details on immediate plans and long term time consuming plans that will be implemented.

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After the meeting the State Counsellor presented foods for locals in Ma Gyun Galet Salon (Moken) village and local officials presented a traditional Salon boat to the State Counsellor. The State Counsellor then took commemorative group photo with Ma Gyun Galet Salon (Moken) village ethnic Salon villagers, local populace and youth welfare group.
Salons stay in group and are known as Sea Gypsy or Men (people) of the sea. They prefer themselves to be called as Moken rather than Salon and Salon are the distinct identity of Myeik archipelago. Their culture and lives are distinct from other ethnic nationals and races. They do not settle and live in a place but travel and live on the sea instead. They are skilled at swimming and diving and are known to be able to dive for considerable time without any breathing apparatus.

They do not farm or raise animal but lived through fishing, diving for pearls and used Salon traditional wooden boats called Kaban. They kept their utensils, food, water, dogs, cats and chickens on their boats.
During the summer and winter, they fish, sell aquatic products and during raining season and when weather is bad, they lived on bamboo stilt houses on nearby islands or in caves. They do not mix with other and had their own traditional belief of spirits. There are about 3,000 Salons in 10 groups with nine living in Myanmar and one in Thailand.
From Ma Gyun Galet, the State Counsellor and party left by speed boat for Kawthoung where the locals welcome them enthusiastically.

(Translated by Zaw Min)

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