Suu Kyi Inaugurates Nationwide Trash Cleanup Campaign

By San Yamin Aung 13 December 2015

KAWHMU, Rangoon Division — National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi launched a nationwide garbage collection drive, after her appeal to party members to promote civic values.

Suu Kyi led the so-called “Environmental Beautification Campaign” in the Rangoon township of Kawhmu at around 7am on Sunday morning, where she successfully defended her Lower House seat in the Nov. 8 election. Around 100 residents of all ages enthusiastically joined the campaign, along with assembled journalists and photographers after an entreaty by Suu Kyi.

“I have never witnessed this kind of scene in my life,” said local resident Than Hla, 74, who proudly displayed the plastic gloves he had donned to participate. “It is the best kind of work. We have had many leaders, but she has given excellent advice to us, to start the change with this activity.”

At her first meeting with victorious NLD candidates in last month’s poll, Suu Kyi urged those present to lead by example and personally assist in cleaning up their constituencies. Earlier this month, NLD journal D-Wave announced that the collection drive would begin on Dec. 13 and called on lawmakers, party members and the general public to join the campaign.

According to the announcement, the campaign’s stated goals are to improve public health, present a more attractive image of the country in light of the rising number of foreign tourists arriving in Burma, and to demonstrate that social change can occur swiftly with public participation.

Zin Mar Aung, who will represent Yankin in the Lower House for the NLD next year, told The Irrawaddy that cleanup efforts in her township on Sunday had been joined by members of the municipal government, the local fire station and Red Cross members, along with her constituents.

“We plan to do it regularly,” she said. “We are not just picking up trash, we would like to be able to change behavior over the long term by raising awareness among the public.”

Dr. Hla Moe, MP-elect for Aungmyaythazan in Mandalay, said that each township in his city took part in the campaign, with around 300 people participating in his constituency.

After Suu Kyi floated the idea, some eager party members and youth leaders had already begun conducting regular weekend cleanup drives in their neighborhoods before the campaign was officially inaugurated on Sunday.

“We collected the rubbish to prove that we follow our leader’s words,” said well-known director Kyi Phyu Shin in a Facebook post on Saturday. “While I collecting the rubbish, I realized I should not litter anymore. I would like to urge all to join, since the message the campaign is spreading is very precious.”