Myaungmya District, 1908

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Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.


Myaungmya District

Physical aspects

A delta District in the Irrawaddy Division of Lower Burma, lying between 15° 44' and 16° 55' N. and 94° 36' and 95° 35' E., with an area of 2,663 square miles. In shape a rough parallelogram, the District is bounded on the south by the sea ; on the west by Bassein District ; on the east by Pyapon ; and on the north by Ma-ubin. It is practically a collection of flat, fertile islands, sundered the one from the other by rivers which wind through the levels in a south-westerly direction, and are con- nected by countless tidal creeks, mostly navigable.

With the exception of a small tract of rising ground 30 miles south- west of Myaungmya town, an offshoot of the Arakan Yoma, the surface of the country is very little above the rise of spring-tides. Towards the south, near the coast, the principal features of the scenery are interminable stretches of mangrove jungle and dani palm, which border the mud-banks of the creeks. Farther north, plantain groves take the place of the tidal forests, and, with the pagodas, help to break the monotonous character of the landscape, which otherwise would show little more than a waste of wide rice flats, chequered with strips of grass and tree jungle. Its waterways are the main natural features of Myaungmya.

These are all branches of the Irrawaddy, though that name is given only to the channel which runs down the eastern edge of the District, forming the greater portion of the border between it and the District of Pyapon. The Panmawadi, composed of various streams which leave the Irrawaddy in Henzada District, skirts Myaung- mya for a considerable distance on its western side before striking off westwards into Bassein, one of its branches, the Thetkethaung, bound- ing it down to the sea-coast. Right down the centre of the District flows the Pyamalaw river, parallel to the Irrawaddy and Panmawadi, and enters the sea in two branches, named the Pyamalaw and Pyinzalu, midway between them.

The Shwelaung river takes off from the Irra- waddy at the north-east corner of the District, and, after forming the northern boundary, turns south at the town of Shwelaung, and flows midway between the Irrawaddy and the Pyamalaw for about 25 miles. Here, combining with a branch of the Irrawaddy, it becomes the Kyunpyatthat river, which, leaning first towards the Pyamalaw river, eventually joins the Irrawaddy about 24 miles from the sea. The Irra- waddy, after forming the eastern boundary of the District for 24 miles, divides into two streams, never more than 5 miles apart, which unite again about 30 miles farther south. The eastern branch retains the name of the Irrawaddy, while the western is known as the Yazudaing. The lesser rivers are the Wakema, 23 miles in length, connecting the Shwelaung and Pyamalaw, and flowing past the rising town of Wakema, and the Einme and Myaungmya, which form a loop from the Panma- wadi river nearly 60 miles in length.

The soil is composed of alluvial formation, resting on a substratum of black clay. South-west of Myaungmya is a hilly tract, composed of rocks of the Nummulitic group ; but beyond this small stretch of upland the country to some depth below the surface is largely a suc- cession of layers of river silt, brought down from the north within what is geologically a comparatively recent date.

The flora is of the type common to all the delta tracts, which is briefly described under Hanthawaddy District. Tidal and swamp vegetation predominates.

Elephants and tigers are found in the southern and more unreclaimed parts, but the spread of cultivation is reducing their range. Leopards (including the black variety) are found in all parts, and are occasionally trapped, and sd?nbar and barking-deer are fairly plentiful in the Myaungmya township. Monkeys abound in the southern forests, while in the smaller creeks are numerous crocodiles, driven to these more secluded retreats by the traffic in the larger streams. Along the sea- coast both the turtle and the tortoise are common.

On the whole, the climate, though enervating, is not unhealthy. Proximity to the sea renders it more equable than that of the Districts farther inland. The average minimum temperature is about 65° and the maximum 95°, the average mean being about 80°. The temperature never rises above 105°. The rainfall is copious and regular, varying locally with the proximity to the coast. The northern townships receive from 70 to 90 inches a year, the southern townships from 90 to 130 inches. Owing to the nature of the surface of the country, certain tracts are regularly inundated during the rains.

The cyclone of May, 1902, unroofed a third of the dwellings in the District, sank many boats with considerable loss of life, and destroyed much stored grain ; but visitations of this nature are rare.


The name Myaungmya is said to mean ' pleasant canal,' but this is only the most plausible of various alleged derivations. The District has made no permanent mark in history, and, save in the fourteenth century, the old annals contain no reference to it of importance. In 1387 one Lauk Bya, governor of Myaungmya, is said by the Talaing chroniclers to have raised the standard of revolt against Razadirit, king of Pegu, and to have called in the aid of the king of Ava. The Burmese troops were, however, defeated at Hmawbi, the rebellion was quashed, and Lauk Bya was eventually captured and beheaded. Myaungmya is referred to in the history of the events that followed on this revolt, and in 1410 a Burmese army is said to have made an unsuccessful attack upon the town. But no mention of it is made in later chronicles, and in neither the first nor the second Burmese War did it play an important part. The District is of modern creation, having been formed in 1893 by the combination of the western townships of Thongwa (now Ma-ubin) District with the eastern townships of Bassein District. On the con- stitution of Pyapon District in 1903, the Pantanaw township of the ^Vakema (or eastern) subdivision was restored to Ma-ubin District, and a large circle of the Pyindaye township of the old Thongwa District was added to Myaungniya, the Wakenia township being made into a subdivision and divided into two townships, with head-quarters at Wakema and Moulmeingyun.


Owing to the frequent changes in the boundaries of the District, it is not possible to give accurate statistics of the population in earlier years. In 1881 there were about 85,000 persons in the area now constituting Myaungmya, a total which had risen by 1891 to 185,930. After that date the increase in population was very rapid, owing to immigration, and in 1901 the total stood at 278,119.

The distribution of the population in 190 1 over the existing area is given in the following table : —


Myaungmya and Wakema are the only towns. The rate of increase is extraordinary in the Wakema township, and throughout the whole District is large. The immigrants come chiefly from the neighbouring District of Bassein, from the dry zone districts on the Irrawaddy, and to a small extent from Mandalay, Shwebo, and Ix)wer Chindwin in Upper Burma. Burmese is spoken by about 190,000 persons, and Karen by about 77,000.

Of the total population, Burmans number about 180,000, and Karens about 78,000. The latter are most thickly distributed in the older cultivation in the north, and still preserve their language. The immi- grants from Upper Burma go farther south to make new clearings. About 2,000 persons returned themselves as Takings in 1901, but only a third of them spoke Talaing. The Indian population is small, numbering 3,400 Musalmans and 2,000 Hindus. The Christian com- munity, on the other hand, is large, numbering about 12,800, being the largest aggregate in the Province after Rangoon, Bassein, and Toungoo. Two-thirds of the population are directly dependent upon agriculture for a living, and about 3,700 live by taiiiigya (shifting) cultivation in the small hilly area of the District.

There are 12,500 native Christians, mostly Karens. More than 9,000 of these belong to the American Baptist Mission, which has stations in the large Karen villages and many village churches. The head-quarters of the Roman Catholic missions are at Myaungmya, Kanazogon, and Kyontalok, where there are substantial churches.


In all parts except the Myaungmya township the natural conditions — richness of soil, flatness of surface, and timeliness and sufficiency of rainfall — are extremely favourable to agriculture. The soil is an alluvial loam on a substratum of clay, formed by the deposit of silt from the Irrawaddy floods, which inun- date a considerable proportion of the District. The only variation in the contour of the land is the gradual slope away from the banks to the interior of the island of cultivation. In consequence of these favourable conditions, practically nothing but rice {kaukkyi or wet- season) is grown, though a certain number of plantain groves exist.

The system of cultivation is the same as in other parts of Burma, the rice being transplanted from nurseries after the ground has been prepared with the harrow {tundon). The plough is often not used at all, the seed being scattered broadcast after the grass has been cut. The gardens usually lie in long narrow strips along the banks of the streams. Manuring is said to be unknown and unattempted, and even the burning of the surface straw is rare.

The chief agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are shown below, areas being in square miles : —


Accurate statistics of the area under cultivation in earlier years cannot be given, owing to the numerous changes in the District boundaries; but in general terms it may be said that about 312 square miles were cultivated in i88x, 437 in 1891, and 711 in 1901.

Rice occupied 764 square miles in 1903-4. The area under garden cultivation was 20 square miles, evenly distributed over the various townships, with the exception of Moulmeingyun, where the gardens are confined to the Kyaikpi circle on the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy. Of the total area under orchards, 5,000 acres were devoted to plan- tain groves. The dani palm, used largely for thatching purposes, is most popular in the Myaungmya township, and is grown on 4,100 acres. Almost the only other crop worthy of mention is sugar-cane, which covers about 550 acres in the Myaungmya and Wakema town- ships. Sesamum is, however, also cropped to a small extent, and coco-nut palms are fairly plentiful. There are no particular forms of tenure.

Large quantities of cultivable land are taken up each year by the ■agriculturists of the District and the many immigrants. In 1903 about 39 square miles were ploughed for the first time. The extension cannot be continued for long, as the reservation of forests, grazing grounds, and fishery tracts has had the effect of reducing the available waste land considerably during the past few years. There is nothing to record in the way of improvements in agricultural practice. The provisions of the Land Improvement and Agriculturists' Loans Acts have been made but little use of in recent years, as the large exten- sions of cultivation have been carried out by capitalists to whom the small sums obtainable under these Acts are no inducement.

Both buffaloes and kine are bred and employed in the fields. Buffaloes are used by Karens and Burmans mostly in the more low- lying tracts, where they thrive better than cattle, and have harder work to do. Ponies are few and can be used only in the north. In the network of creeks which intersects the southern area their employ- ment is out of the question. Except in the Wakema township grazing reserves are ample. In Wakema cultivation has expanded so rapidly during the last decade that the existing reserves are inadequate, but steps are being taken to remedy this defect. During the rains the cattle have to be protected from countless swarms of mosquitoes by the smoke of fires, or even by means of cloth coverings that answer the purpose of a mosquito curtain.

There are no regular irrigation works, and no part of the larger embankment schemes of the delta falls within the limits of the Dis- trict ; but the Shwelaung marginal road (12 miles long) in the extreme north of the Wakema township shelters about 6,000 acres of land. Next to the cultivation of rice, fishing is the chief occupation of the inhabitants. It was even more important in the days when the Panta- naw township formed a portion of the District. The inland fisheries occupy a large portion of the eastern part of the Einme township, and the revenue derived from them in 1903-4 amounted to 1-3 lakhs. A full and interesting description of these fisheries and the methods of working them is contained in a report by Major Maxwell pub- lished in 1904. Turtle-banks exist along the coast of the District, of which the two most important are known as the Amatgale and Pyinsalu banks.

The forests are of no great value. Teak is of comparatively rare occurrence, and the mixed forests in which it is found are ' unclassed.' There is a small area of tropical forest in the hilly tract about 40 miles south-west of Myaungmya. Littoral forests are common in the southern portions, a considerable proportion of the low-lying area round the coast being covered with mangrove jungle, for the most part 'reserved.' The swamp forests lying to the north of these tidal forests form the main rattan-producing tracts of the District. The area of ' reserved ' forests is 480 square miles, and of the 'unclassed' area 1,000 square miles. The forest receipts in 1903-4 amounted to Rs. 28,000.

The mineral resources are comparatively meagre. Pottery clay is found in parts of the Einme township, where the poorer classes have taken to pot-making ; and laterite is worked for road-metalling in the Myaungmya township, where also limestone is obtained in the hilly areas. The quarries are worked only in the dry season, and the blocks of limestone when extracted are transported by cart or boat some distance to the kilns.

Trade and Communication

With the exception of pottery, which is really only a domestic occu- pation, there are practically no arts save those that are entirely subsidiary to agriculture. Of industries, the manufacture of salt mentioned. The head-quarters of the salt industry are at the two villages of Sagyin and Ganeik in the south-west of the Myaungmya township, a dozen miles from the sea on the Panmawadi river. Salt is obtained by evaporation, but the product is coarse and is used almost entirely in the local 7igapi industry. The annual output is about 50,000 maunds, obtained from 14 factories containing 48 cauldrons of a capacity of 40 gallons each. Ngapi is fish-paste into which all the large surplus of fish caught in the District is transformed before being sent into the interior of Burma. Many varieties are produced ; but the ngapi chiefly made here is the damin or sea ngapi, the head-quarters of the industry being at Labutta, on the right bank of the Ywe river, 20 miles from the coast.

The principal exports are paddy and ngapi. The former is carried by boat or steamer to either Rangoon or Bassein, according as the one or the other port is the more accessible. N'gapi, on the other hand, is sent to all parts of Burma. The imports comprise every article required by a primitive agricultural or fishing community, such as piece-goods, hardware, kerosene oil, &c. ; these commodities are brought by river from Rangoon for the most part. The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company enjoys the larger share of this trade, but native boats also play a conspicuous part in the carrying business.

No railways have been constructed ; but the connexion of Myaung- mya, Thigvvin, Einme, and Pantanaw (in Ma-ubin District) by means of a light railway is under consideration. The only roads are purely local. Water communications are so plentiful, however, that these deficiencies have so far not been felt ; in fact, no village of any size is situated far from a navigable waterway. The main steamer route from Rangoon to Bassein traverses the District by the cross-streams connecting the Irrawaddy, Pyamalaw, Ywe, and Panmawadi rivers. The steamers stop at Myaungmya, Wakema, and Shwelaung within the Hmits of the District. In addition, the main trade centres — Shwelaung, Wakema, Kyunpyatthat, Moulmeingyun, Einme, Thigwin, Myaungmya, and Labutta- — are kept in regular communication with each other, and with the towns of the neighbouring Districts of Bassein and Ma-ubin, by services of smaller steamers and launches.


The District is divided for administrative purposes into two sub- divisions : Myaungmya, comprising the Myaungmya and Einme town- ships ; and Wakema, comprising the Wakema and . , . . Moulmeingyun townships. These administrative areas are in charge of the usual executive ofificers, under whom are 7 iaik (or circle) thugyis and 673 ywathugyis or village headmen. The former are being gradually abolished, their revenue duties being taken over by the village headmen in accordance with the policy pursued by the Government of late years. The Executive Engineer at Myaungmya is in charge of a division comprising Myaungmya, Ma-ubin, and Pyapon Districts. The District, together with Bassein, forms a Forest division, with head-quarters at Bassein.

For some considerable time the executive ofificers of the District have been almost completely relieved of civil judicial work, and the new judicial scheme is now in force, Myaungmya being the head- quarters of the Divisional and Sessions Judge of the Delta Division. A District Judge has been appointed, and the Deputy-Commissioner has no duties in connexion with civil justice. A subdivisional judge has been appointed for the two subdivisions of the District, and there is a special civil judge for the Myaungmya and Einme townships, while a judge, sitting at Wakema and Moulmeingyun, does the civil work for the two townships of the Wakema subdivision. Crime is of the type common to all the delta Districts of the Province. It has increased of recent years, but not out of proportion to the growth in population.

Under the Burmese regime the revenue system was the same as that obtaining in the other Districts of Lower Burma. A tax was assessed at so much per yoke of oxen or buffaloes, and another impost corre- sponded more or less to the income tax of modern days. In 1862 acre rates were fixed in the northern portion of the Myaungmya township, and remained in force till 1 880-1. They varied from R. i to Rs. 2 per acre, the former rate being levied on the exhausted land in the Myaung- mya circle. The settlement of the Wakema township was carried out about the same time, and was revised ten years later. The revenue steadily increased, and in 1879-80 the rates were raised by about 25 per cent, in the Myaungmya township, and by 6 to 25 per cent, in the townships of Wakema and Pantanaw (the latter now in Ma-ubin District). This increase did not check the extension of cultivation, which shows that the higher rates did not press heavily on the people.

The northern portions of the Myaungmya and Wakema townships were again brought under settlement in 1888-9, when they were divided into nine assessment tracts (with two soil classes) ; and the rates then in existence were replaced by rates on rice land varying from R. i to Rs. 2-10 per acre, on gardens at Rs. 2-8, and on miscellaneous, crops at Rs. 2 per acre. The Einme township (till 1893 part of Bassein District) was assessed in 1854 at rates varying from Rs. 1-8 to Rs. 1-12 per acre. These were modified in 1862, the maximum rate being raised to Rs. 2-8 in a resettlement in 188 1-2.

The rates fixed in 188 1-2 remained in force till 1897-8 in this area. The culti- vated lands in the south of the Myaungmya township were settled in 1862, and were not resettled till 190 1-2. At the time of resettle- ment rates in force varied from R. i (on the lands nearest the sea) to Rs. 2-10 per acre. On resettlement they were modified as follows. On rice lands the rate ranged from R. 1 (in the extreme south-west corner) to Rs. 3-4 an acre ; on miscellaneous cultivation the rate was Rs. 1-8 throughout the tract ; on gardens, Rs. 2 ; on da7ii palms, Rs. 4 ; on solitary fruit trees, 4 annas each.

The northern part of the Myaungmya township and the Einme township were again settled in 1897-8. The lands were reclassified, the village charge being substituted for the kwin as the settlement unit, and rates varying from Rs. 1-4 upwards were sanctioned. The maximum rate for garden land in this portion of the District is Rs. 5 per acre on betel- vine and dani plantations, and Rs. 2-8 on other garden and mis- cellaneous cultivation. The settlement of the southern part of the Wakema subdivision was completed in 1902-3, the highest rate sanc- tioned being Rs. 5 per acre for rice, Rs. 10 for betel-vine, and Rs. 5 for datii. The northern part was taken in hand in 1903-4. An ordinary rice holding in the Myaungmj^a township ranges from 10 to 15 acres in extent, and in the rest of the District from 20 to 25 acres. Owing to the recent formation of the District and the frequent modifications of its boundaries, comparative revenue statistics cannot be given. The land revenue in 1903-4 amounted to 11-7 lakhs, and the capitation tax to 2'5 lakhs; the total revenue was 20 lakhs.

The District cess fund, derived mainly from a 10 per cent, cess on the land revenue, and utilized for various local needs, had an income in 1903-4 of I '6 lakhs ; and the chief items of expenditure were public works (Rs. 48,000) and education (Rs. 18,000). The only municipality in the District is Myaungmya, but Wakema is managed by a town committee.

The civil police force is under the orders of the District Superin- tendent, aided by one Assistant Superintendent and 4 inspectors. The lower grades are made up of 8 head constables, 36 sergeants, and 206 constables, distributed in 12 police stations and 3 outposts. The military police force consists of 3 native officers, 8 havilddrs, and 162 men, stationed at Myaungmya, at the various township head- quarters, and at Thigwin, Shwelaung, Kyumpyatthat, and Kyaikpi.

The jail at Myaungmya has an enclosure capable of providing for 1,000 prisoners, but the actual accommodation in buildings is for 500, which is ample at present. The only occupations carried on by the prisoners are the manufacture of jail clothing for supply to other jails, and gardening.

The standard of education is fairly high. The percentage of males recorded as literate in 1901 was 42-8, and that of females 7-2, or 25-9 for both sexes together. In 1904 the District contained 7 secondary, 155 primary, and 256 private (elementary) schools, with 6,734 male and 1,366 female pupils. The total includes a considerable number of Karen seminaries. Myaungmya town possesses an Anglo-vernacular middle school, with an attendance of about 100, which is maintained by the municipality. The public expenditure on education in 1903-4 amounted to Rs. 26,600, of which the District cess fund provided E.S 18,000, Provincial funds Rs. 4,300, municipal funds Rs. 1,500, and fees Rs. 2,800.

The District contains two hospitals, with forty-nine beds. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 17,750, including 685 in-patients, and 419 operations were performed. The total expenditure was Rs. 8,000, of which municipal funds contributed Rs. 4,900 and Local funds Rs. 2,800.

In 1903-4 the number of persons successfully vaccinated was 12,642, representing 42 per 1,000 of population. Vaccination is compulsory only in Myaungmya and Wakema towns.

[VV. E. Lowry, Settlement Report (1899); J. Mackenna, Settlement Report (1903); Major F. D. Maxwell, Report on Inland and Sea Fisheries (1904).]

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