Rangoon Parliament Rejects Plans to Open Homes for the Aged

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 16 December 2013

RANGOON — The Rangoon Division Parliament has rejected a bill proposed last week that would have required the divisional government to open daytime elderly care centers in Burma’s biggest city.

The bill, put forward by Nyo Nyo Thin, a lawmaker representing Bahan Township, was rejected because the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement said the divisional government lacked a budget for the project, which it said would fall under the purview of the national government.

Rangoon currently has one daytime elderly care center, run by the ministry in Mayangone Township. People over the age of 70 can receive support at the center between 7 am and 7 pm.

Burma has 65 overnight nursing and retirement homes for the aged, including 11 homes in Rangoon, according to the ministry. Residents are offered three categories of support—some receive rice and meals, while others receive rice only and some receive meals only.

“I want to urge the Rangoon Division government to open more daytime elderly care centers in Rangoon because there are homeless elderly people in the city,” Nyo Nyo Thin told The Irrawaddy. “Some households can’t afford to support their old parents, and they neglect them.”

Rangoon residents say they regularly see homeless elderly people in the streets, although not in the past few weeks.

“Most of them are women over the age of 70, around rail stations, bus stops and shopping centers. But you don’t see them right now. Because of the SEA Games, they are moving out of the city center,” said Ma Ei Ei from Pazuntaung Township, referring to the Southeast Asian Games.

The government has attempted to clean up the streets and promote a positive image as Burma hosts the regional sporting competition for the first time in over four decades. The Games began earlier this month and close on Dec. 22.

According to official figures, over 10 percent of Burma’s 60 million or so population is over the age of 60.

“There are a lot of volunteers who help at the centers for older people around the country, so we are checking to ensure that each center adheres to regulations,” Tin Zaw Moe, deputy director of the ministry, told The Irrawaddy.

Nyo Nyo Thin urged authorities to consider new ways of funding homes for the aged.

“There is a lot of land space out of Rangoon’s city center. If the regional [divisional] government supports land and some local donors link in—for example, through a private-public partnership plan, working together—it can be a success,” she said.

“Even though they cannot do it right now, it is important to call attention to the need to help older people. If the government cannot manage this issue, it can affect the country’s image, too.”