Trash Talking Rangoon Residents Refuse to Recognize Regional Representative’s Garbage Grab

By San Yamin Aung 30 March 2015

RANGOON — Myint Swe has been taken to task on social media over the weekend, after his attempt to beautify the city, and perhaps his own image, were criticized by residents annoyed by the woeful state of municipal services.

As part of a Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) initiative, the Rangoon Division Chief Minister on Saturday helped collect trash on the streets of Rangoon’s Latha Township.

“We do a collaborative cleaning activity every Saturday,” said Khin Hlaing, a committee member for the YCDC’s western district. “On that day, YCDC departmental staff collect garbage together at some place in the city. The Chief Minister picked up trash while overseeing the cleanup in Latha.”

A picture of Myint Swe bending down to collect plastic refuse widely circulated on Facebook afterward. Some users praised the example he set for municipal staff, but others were quick to criticize.

One Facebook user said that one-day cleanups were insufficient for keeping city streets clean, and called for more waste bins and systematic waste collection. Another said that the chief minister should use his authority as head of the divisional government to make policies to end littering, rather than preening on a public forum.

“If they put waste bins in each ward, at intersections and under lampposts, and collected garbage at regular times, there would be no garbage on the street,” said a third user, reflecting the prevailing sentiments of those who commented on the photo.

Waste management in Rangoon is operated in a piecemeal manner by a team of YCDC employees, hampered by a shortage of waste bins and an upsurge in consumer goods purchases, with streets often cluttered with plastic debris and discarded leftover food in alleyways and gutters.

Khin Hlaing told The Irrawaddy that Rangoon’s sanitation system had suffered from many years of neglect, and long-term initiatives to improve waste management and reduce blight were needed.

“No matter whether it is the chief minister, the mayor or YCDC members, everyone needs to have a long-term commitment to cleaning up the city, not only on fleeting occasions,” he said.