Yangon Boatmen – struggle of a life on the river

Ko Kyin one of the many Yangon Boatmen just counted the money that he had earned today. He smiled because he earned just enough money to buy a meal for his family. Ko Kyin is a bass boat driver and he works as a ferry driver across Yangon River to send the passengers back and forth from Yangon and Da La. Da La harbor and Pansodan harbor are his work places; he works there from 4:00 AM in the morning until late in the evening. If he cannot earn enough, he has to work until 9:00PM.

He has a dark skin, a built body, and a happy smile despite is hard life. He and other bass boatmen head back to Da La where they live with their families. Another day had just ended successfully because he earned enough money today, but all of the boatmen’s hearts are filled with worries for tomorrow.

Boatmen need to do many round trips per day in order to earn a living

Lives of boatmen, who spent their whole life on Yangon River, have nothing to do with the progress that Yangon city has been making these last few years. Ko Kyin never thinks that the changes in the country and politics can help improving the quality his and his co-workers life. Da La is located just across the Yangon River from Yangon City, but the differences between the development of Yangon and Da La are huge. Most of the boatmen rent lands in Da La and build houses to live with their big families. Other people who live in Da La have to use the ferries to get to Yangon where they all work with low salary everyday. Since they earn low salary, they can only afford to live in Da La where house rents are much cheaper than in Yangon.

Ko Kyin has 20 years of experience working as a boatman on Yangon River. All of the boatmen rely on the passengers who cross Yangon River daily, but they don’t earn enough money every day. If people choose to take the big ferryboats instead of the bass boats, boatmen cannot earn enough, therefore their lives are full of struggles and worry every day. They know what they earn at the end of the day, but they never know what the next day will be made of. If you ask boatmen what they think about the political changes, they will simply say that it has nothing to do with their lives because they can earn for food and shelter only by relying on themselves. If they are sick and cannot go to work, there will be no income for that day. Do they want the government to do something for them? They will reply you that they wish the government can do something for them but they only have a tiny hope for that.

Sky getting darker on Yangon river, time for boatmen to go home…

Ko Kyin would be satisfied if at least the government could help his kids to get better education because he does not want them to end up like him. His life has been just about flowing back and forth Yangon River, but he wants his kids to get to a better place where they won’t have to worry for daily struggle like him. Anyway, he is happy working as a boatman, sending the passengers safety to their destination. Even though he only has tiny hope for his life improvement, he has big hopes for his kids’ life improvement.

Now, a new day has begun. He and his other fellow Yangon boatmen head out to Da La Harbor with hopes to earn enough money to survive another day with their families. Yangon River is shining beautifully in red between the two different worlds. Ko Kyin and the boatmen are also shining in their heart and with their smiles to spend another day on Yangon River.

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