TO Buddhists in Myanmar, use of plastic bottles reflects a nation that is less kind.

''THE disappearance of clay water pots symbolizes that there is no trust in communities, and less kindness,'' said U Hnget, a prominent writer.

EYES and ears are alert; not only the city's teahouses but also online. In August, U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, a filmmaker, was sentenced to a year of hard labor for social media post deemed critical of the military.

YANGON : PLASTIC is now a growing scourge in Yangon. Disposable water bottles float in the Irrawaddy and Yangon Rivers. They crunch under the wheels of bullock Carts, startling the Oxen

The potters who have fashioned the water vessels for generations have had to adapt to adopt to this faster, more disposable world.

U Nyuent Khin, 70, lives in Twante Township, on the outskirts of Yangon, where surrounding Irrawaddy Delta disgorges a rich clay ideal for pottery. He has been making water pots for 40 years. Business started souring a decade ago, he said.

Back then, he and his wife made 400 pots a day, swirling a rough pattern on each. Today, he is lucky if he sell 10.
''My business is disappearing, but I will never drink from plastic,'' he said. ''The flavor is bad.''

But it's about more than taste.

''In some places, people don't even put out water at all,'' he said, shaking his head at the parsimony. ''We've lost our morals. It's like we are returning to the Stone Age.''

Others worry the abandonment of the practice will only intensify distrust in a city where  SPECIAL BRANCH is back again. or perhaps never really went away.

''The disappearance of clay water pots symbolizes that there is no trust in communities and less kindness,'' said U Sue Huget, a prominent writer.

In Twante, dusk quickly turned to night, as it does in tropics. Mosquitoes began to bite. Mr. Nyunt Khin lit a kerosene lamp, illuminating the pottery dust suspended in the air. Electricity is too expensive, he said. The heat of the day still pulsed.

Down a dirt path from Nyunt Khin's thatched warehouse, U. Kyaw Soe runs a fourth generation pottery business. He knows he has to change with the times so he has shifted from water jugs to flower pots and planters decorated with cartoon animals.

Twante, remains a place where many men in sarong and bamboo pith helmets smoke cheerots and women balance baskets  of vegetables on their heads. But the younger generation favors shorts and soccer jerseys.

At night, bathed in the glow of a television soap opera, Twante women poured boiled water not  into earthen vessels but into scavenged plastic bottles.

The refilled bottles went into a cooler powered by a generator thrumming a bass note. Modernity, bright and loud, drowned the night noises: the hiccup of geckos, the complaint of insects and the rustle of palms heavy with coconuts.

When younger customers come to look at Mr. Kyaw Soe's flower pots, he said he has to serve them plastic bottles of refrigerated water.

''They are not used to the taste from clay pots,'' he said. ''They think it tastes like dirt.''

The World Students Society thanks Hannah Beech, and Saw Nang, who contributed in reporting.


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