Asia-Pacific

Myanmar youth find freedom at newly built skate park

The new community project was built by the generosity and hard work of volunteers from around the globe. Source: Tessa Fox

Young people in the city of Yangong, Myanmar, are enjoying the country's first international standard skate park.

From early morning to last light, the youth of Yangon revel in a new sense of freedom on Myanmar’s first international standard skate park. 

Six-year-old Chan Aye is cheeky and enthusiastic, though he still does not own his own skateboard.

He waits for the moment when someone is not using theirs and borrows it.  

"I'm happy when I'm skating," he said with a smile on his face.

Plenty of the kids at the park are barefoot, some test the stability of flip-flops and a few are lucky enough to have school shoes or real skate shoes. 

"I'm happy when I'm skating."

Fronting a typically busy, Southeast Asian main road, the new community project was built by the generosity and hard work of volunteers from around the globe. 

Travelling from 15 countries to help the German-based organisation, Make Life Skate Life, the builders completed Myanmar’s first international standard skate park in an intense time period of three weeks.

Starting out

Most kids have only started skating since the park was built.

Kaung Zayar, 14, has just picked up a skateboard.

"Before I started skating I just use to go and play video games," he said.

"I feel great, I’m happy when I’m skating. I’m thinking about what tricks to do."

Despite skating’s risks, Kaung said parents “approve”.

“They feel satisfied if their sons and daughters are happy.”

Before the park was built, skateboarders in Yangon only skated on the streets, particularly at a spot under a nearby bridge.

Mobile skate shop owner Pius Pru said they needed a safe and monitored environment.

"The bridge is a public place, so it's dirty and we are not safe to skate there because it’s in the middle of a main road," he said.

"Now Make Life Skate Life have built a very nice skate park, a lot of the kids are happy to skate here.

"At the skate spot some parents are afraid, they don’t want their kids to skate under the bridge. But now, parents let their children skate [at the new park]."

Project Co-ordinator and British skateboarder Ali Drummond has lived in Myanmar for five years.

"There’s plenty of rollerblade rinks around the country, now there’s finally something [for skateboarders]," he said.

In a country rife with political and religious tension, skateboarding is a release that overrides it all.

The community it has produced transcends political, religious, economic and gender barriers.

It also teaches a common language, through a passion shared around the world.

'There are no rules'

The new skate park has brought people to Myanmar, a country restricted to foreigners in recent years, exposing the young to different cultures and creating connections to the expat community.

Make Life Skate Life raised enough money from sponsors to build the skate park and also pay a local to manage and maintain the grounds.

Ko Hein looks after the free skateboard hire and daily lessons. He has witnessed its positive impact in the community.

"Skating has become a hobby for the kids in the local neighbourhood and we’ve seen that they’ve picked it up quickly," he said.

"At the skate spot some parents are afraid, they don’t want their kids to skate under the bridge. But now, parents let their children skate [at the new park]."

Skateboard shop owner Pius Pru is grateful for the new skills he learnt from the international builders.

"Skateboarding in Yangon is now developing. In a few years we [want] to build more skate parks," he said.

"It’s good because it’s free, we can create anything we want, there are no rules.

"It’s freedom. Whenever we skate, we get the freedom. That’s why it’s good for young people."

The free-to-use, international standard skatepark in Myanmar has built a new sense of dedication, creativity, independence and support within a tight-knit young community rarely experienced before.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch