Poverty Challenges Behind the Cultural Heritage Area of Myanmar: Case study of Bagan










Hnin Myat Thu

Student ID 81126092









Human Security and Communication (HC)

Second Year Master Student





                Human security is seriously threatened in most developing countries that suffer from political instability, macroeconomic fragility and lack of government capacity of willingness to provide basic services and to protect peoplefs safety and security.1This is particularly true in states that have lost control over their boundaries. But even in countries that are politically and economically stable, human security can be endangered when domestic institutions cannot properly cope with internal or external shocks such as natural disasters, infectious diseases, social conflicts and poverty.2

According to the World Development report 2000-2001, the World Bank emphasizes that poverty has three dimensions:

  1. Lack of income and assets
  2. Voicelessness and powerlessness
  3. Vulnerability

These above mentioned points can be found in this research area such as, local people are lack of income and assets because their land were taken by the elites, then they have no right of voice and power, after all they all are vulnerability.

Case study of Myanmar, the developing country

                According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in the year of 2000 and 2007, arrivals of tourists in 50 least developed countries increased by 110%, contrasted to a growth of 54% in all developing countries and 32% worldwide. Though tourism is widely accepted by many developing countries as an income generator and force for the economic development, this core of paper will argue that this kind of development is not really affected the local community and even tend to be negative impact for the local people especially in economy and security. As security policies are still tourist-centered approach in many countries, understanding the concept of the poverty and insecurity for the local people is one of the spheres, which needs to be paid attention in all countries, which want to rely on the tourism as the income generator for the country.

                Myanmar which is home for all kinds of cultural heritage with its long history, is trying to sustain with its utmost capacity for the extensive presence of challenges. Myanmar is one of the least developed countries, trying to make tourism as an income generator and force of economic development for the entire nation. To develop the tourism sector, as we all know that cultural heritage can play a key role for the nations income. But we should pay attention to the local peoplefs livelihood. Peoplefs way of living relies on the heritage tourism which is the same under the umbrella that causes of poverty and insecurities should be entitled for the new policy recommendation.

Problems to be stated in the field work research area

                As we assume that people from the cultural heritage area are getting wellbeing from the tourism. But in the reality, people from that region were suffering a lot from the tourism development. They have no employment opportunities and they have low level of education. Local people are not enough educated to be appointed. They have lack of choice and it tends to be insecure for their lives. They become seasonal workers and they depend on the debts and finally, they have no choice and they canft escape from such vicious circle.

The second main problem is form social point of view. The children donft want to go to school, but they want to do this kind of job which can earn money easily. They are working as an illegal tour guide and souvenir sellers. Some of them consist of young women become to be prostitute and even children will be the commodities for sex and some crimes. This is another reason which they have no security.

Tourists not only bring money for the destination area but also unpredictable diseases. Todayfs infectious diseases continue to blight the lives of the poor across the world. So this kind of problems in the cultural area should be considered by the authority concerned.  Because Myanmar is now shifting to the opening stage and it will be opening for all kind of foreign visitors.

Myanmar is famous as one of the few truly original travel experiences remaining in this much travelled world. Decades of social and economic isolation have preserved Myanmar for many of traditional features, physical and culture, which have been lost in other Asian countries. Myanmar is a captivating travel destination for its diversity of sightseeing and heritage sites. Nowadays, Myanmar is practicing a new constitution and shifting to the market economic system and it is more convenient for the foreign visitors to come to the country. So attention should be paid for the local communities who are relying on the tourism sector.

As a result of tourism development, there should be found some hidden points, even some elites can gain while local people are really suffer in the current situation. Though tourism development in the heritage area provides economic benefit for the countryfs wellbeing, it leads poorfs to poorer and got insecurity in some instant.

Because of the development of tourism, local people of the heritage area suffer a lot by economic and social welfare as these factors tend to lead poor situation. As the people of this area are totally depend on the tourism sector, there may be added a lot of seasonal workers. This tends income to be lower and lower and debts to be grower.

The poverty has been higher in the cultural heritage areas where the economic activities of local people only depend upon the tourism sector than the cultural heritage areas where other economic activities are also conducted. There is a low employment opportunity for the local people, they have less choice. As almost all of the hotel, motel and inns in these areas are owned by the people from other regions and they have been bringing the labors from their home towns.  There will become the unrealistic expectations for the younger people from school and being dropped out by thinking of brighter futures. That is why I would like to focus on the effects of poverty which are being overwhelmed upon the children and youth. 

Local people (parents of theirs) have been lost their lands for the tourist attraction landscaping and later they have no land for cultivating. They were pushed into this situation and they changed their livelihoods in overnight. Most of the Children and Youth came to the tourist attraction area and Pagodas to find the jobs which are totally related with tourism. So we need to find out what are the main influential factors of the poverty and insecurity of the local people and how we can cope with it. Here later I would like to express my findings of my second field work which was conducted from August to October 2012.

Research Objectives and Questions

                Here I would like to propose my objectives of research.

  1. To find out the causes of poverty in the cultural heritage area.
  2. To analysis the way of living of the local people before and after tourism development
  3. To compare the livelihoods of the local people before and after tourism development
  4. To find out which is the best way to improved the children and youth of the cultural heritage area

Base on the above mentioned objectives, here I would like to propose the research questions.

  1. Does tourism development really effect on the development of the local people?
  2. Why local people, especially children and youth depend on the tourism industry?
  3. How did they become into this situation?
  4. How to create sustainable community for the tourism attraction area?
  5. How to make use of Baganfs cultural heritage as a foundation of local development that was displace by the tourism development?


                To answer the above mentioned research questions, I would like to propose my research hypothesis as follow:

gIf there is some policy and security for the local people especially for children and youth, according to the tourism development, then livelihood and security of these local people from these cultural heritage area will be improved properly?h

Survey Period and Sites

                This is my second field work which was conducted from (21) August 2012 to (18) September 2012.

                My survey sites of my second field work were located in the central part of Myanmar, which are famous for the Tourist attraction in Myanmar. My survey site is situated on the bend of the Ayeyarwddy River, which is the most important river in Mynamar. It is located 290 kilometers southwest of Mandalay, which is the third main city of Myanmar and 700 kilometers north of Yangon, which is the second main city of Myanmar. It coordinates are 21f10h North and 94f 52h East. Baganfs economy is based mainly on tourism. Until the advent of tourism industry in 1990s, only a few villagers lived in Old Bagan, The rise of tourism has attracted a sizable population to the area. Because of Old Bagan is now off limits to permanent dwelling.

Targeted informants: interview and discussion

                Local People: I have made my interview and discussion with the local people who are staying in the cultural heritage area of this area. In this field work, my target informants are children and youth. But also I have made an interview with their parents (local people). The following data have been discussed with local people.

  1. Pre tourism development
  2. During the Tourism development
  3. Land use changes
  4. Livelihoods changes
  5. Health
  6. Education
  7. Migrant from other places or not
  8. Debt     

                Central and Local government: I have made an effective interview with government official in the related fields. The detail lists will be shown in the following.  

Institution Visited

Ministry of Health: I conducted my interview with the key person from the Ministry of Health to know about the infectious diseases which are being spread out in the research area.

Ministry of Culture: I have the interview with the key person from the Ministry of Cultural to know about the land use change in my filed work which is known as the ancient heritage area of Myanmar.

Ministry of National Planning: I went to the Ministry of National Planning to get the poverty situation of Myanmar.

Ministry of Hotel and Tourism: I have made an interview with the Ministry of Hotel and Tourism to know about the incoming number of visitors and rules and regulations for them. But unfortunately, I have a chance for only discussion and I will have a data by mail.

Field work findings

                During my field work, I have found out many problems which are related with the tourism development. In 1989, July, the Government makes a plan to move people from old Bagan to new Bagan. Old Bagan is named because this area is ancient area and many monuments can be found in this area. New Bagan is outside of the ancient area. The government provided new land for the local people including official ownership. About 3000 house- holds (20000 people) are moving to new Bagan. Before moving to new Bagan, the livelihoods of the local people are plantation fishing and wage labor. After moving to new area, they have no land to cultivate and some of them sold their lands in to the outsiders, who want to set up hotels and restaurants. People, who sold their land have nowhere to live again as they are not knowing how to use the money effectively. They wasted all of their money, actually they not get very fair price. They become and going to the pagoda more and more. Because they have no land to cultivate, nowhere to live then they lost their livelihoods. Then they become totally depends on the tourism industry. Especially children and youth come into this kind of earning.

                Here while I was on my field work, analyzing how many percentage of gender performing as tourism related workers. I found out that 60 percent of boys are working in the tourism related industry and 40 percent of girls are working in the tourism related industry.

Percentage of gender performing as tourism related workers

Another finding is that age of boyfs respondents who are working as tourism related works, 15% of them are from 6 to 8 years, 40% of them are 9 to 11, 35% of them are 11 to 13 and over 13 years are 10%. This finding shows that 9 to 11 ages of boys are the largest percentage in the tourism development.




Age of boy respondents who are working as tourism related works

Next finding is that age of girl respondents who are working in the tourism related works, 10% of girls respondents are from the age group of 6 to 8 years, 16% of them are 9 to 11 years, 45% of girls are 11 to 13 years, over 13 years of girls are 29%. Then it is found that, there are largest scales 11 to 13 years of girls are working in the tourism related industry.

Age of girl respondents who are working as tourism related works

                Another finding is that schooling percentage of respondents who are working as tourism related works, 40% of girls group is schooling and 50% of boys are in schooling.

Schooling percentage of respondents who are working as tourism related works

                Next finding is that 90 percentage of landless respondents who are working as tourism related work.

Percentage of landless respondents who are working as tourism related work

                Another finding is that, household comparison between old and new Bagan. There we can see that 89% of household are now living in the new Bagan, while other household are leaving other places, which are within in Bagan and other are living near with monuments. 

Household Comparison between Old and New Bagan

Next finding is that only 59% of people are living in the new Bagan. The other is leaving to the other places.

Number of People Comparison between Old and New Bagan

                The next finding is the comparison between Old and New Bagan. There we can see that there is 0% of hotel in old Bagan and 40% of hotel in New Bagan. There we can see that because of tourism development, local people not only lost their land but also lost their livelihoods and then they have no choice to earn their living and become totally depend on the tourism industry.

Number of hotel Comparison between Old and New Bagan

                After these findings, when tourism development was introduced in the ancient cultural heritage area then livelihoods of the local people are lost. After that this disadvantages are mostly effective on the children and youth. They become to depend on the tourism industry. These children and youth are come to the tourist destination places to earn money for their family. They become illegal tourist guide, vender, souvenir sellers even some of them are prostitution.


Everyone has the rights to have their most basic needs. Whatever it is, everyone should have their own choice. This may involve access to food and other necessities, health care and training in humanitarian crises situation, protection against violence and sexual assault of reconstruction and reconciliation work following a conflict. Human security covers several important areas of life and is a precondition for people to be able to exercise their political, social, cultural and economic rights and opportunities. Human security is often a key for affective poverty alleviation.3

As Myanmar is shifting to the Democratic country and the whole world is allowed to come to Myanmar.  And we hope that tourism sector will be more and more growing during these years. Because Myanmar is well-known as the golden land which rich of cultural and natural heritage. As Myanmar is included in one of the least developed countries, it depends on the tourism sector, which is the income generator of the country. Yet this will be true from many point of view, tourism can earn some amount of foreign exchanges for the country. Then this money can be used for the infrastructure and development of the whole nation.  Perhaps almost every part of the nation can achieve the fruits of this tourism sector but the side effect of the tourism development such as poverty and insecurity are affected upon the local people of designated area who are living in these cultural heritage sites. As far as we found, setting up some new policy recommendation is needed for this area and we need to consider about the poverty and livelihood of local people as how do they survive their lives, what is their needs and how can we fulfill their insecurities. This calls for the government and local authority even NGO would initiate and carry out for the reduction of causes of poverty beyond the ancient heritage area of Myanmar.

This paper was discussed about the poverty in the sense of human security. Because of this poverty, countries rely on the tourism industry and it can emerge the side effects which are suffered upon the localities. It is always based on interest of the state and interest of the people. Because there is always a big difference between these two interests. We cannot be balanced between these interests. Because of this gap, most of the people are suffered a lot. Whatever there is a new policy reformation there will be a group, who are suffering for that policy.



  1. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Ellen Seidensticker and Lincoln Chen , 2005, Human insecurity in a Global World ,New threat to Human Security, First edition, page VIII.
  2. http://jica-ri.jica.go.jp/IFIC_and_JBICI-Studies/english/publications/reports/study/topical/poverty_reduction/pdf/poverty_e02.pdf
  3. http://www.sida.se/English/About-us/our-fields-of-work/Human-security1/



Map of Myanmar


‰~/‘ȉ~​​: Bagan




Aerial View of the Bagan Archaeological Region – Monuments shown in yellow



‰~/‘ȉ~​​: NEW
‰~/‘ȉ~​​: OLD





Field work photos

There is a child, who is trying to have a chance for the illegal guide for the visitor, during the school time.

à–¾: 06092012045

Children are running after the horse craft to get the job from the visitor.

à–¾: IMG_0035


Children, waiting for the visitors.


à–¾: IMG_0693