We’re currently in Mawlamyine, in Mon state, for a few days, and yesterday we met up with Ko Myint Than of the MYMA (Mon Youth Missionary Association), an educational organisation that works to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of Mon literature. Mon language is currently on UNESCO’s list of vulnerable languages, and so this is hugely important work. Mon, incidentally, is a fascinating language. It belongs to the Mon-Khmer group, so is not closely related to Burmese, although Burmese uses a modified version of Old Mon script. Alongside Mon language and literature, the MYMA also works on developing students’ skills in English and in Buddhist study.
The MYMA is associated with the hugely ambitious Rāmanññarattha Buddhist university project, and we were fortunate enough to have a tour of the new university building. When the five-storey building is completed (the time-scale is something like ten years), it will be extremely beautiful. The photograph accompanying this post is of the roof, which is currently under construction (note the skilled construction workers at the top of the girders!). And here’s a picture of the view of the grounds and the distant hills from the roof.
It was a pleasure to spend time with the highly impressive Ko Myint Than. The preservation of Mon literature and culture — perhaps not just the preservation, but also the reinvigoration — is, like the university itself, something of a work in progress. But with people like Ko Myint Than working to that end, the prospects look good. As for us, it was good to have a greater insight into the diversity of literary cultures of Myanmar. We hope to be back in Mawlamyine some time to see how the project is taking shape.