Blue Plaques to Bring Attention to Rangoon’s Colonial Buildings

The new plaque was revealed outside City Hall during a ceremony on Saturday. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

The new plaque was revealed outside City Hall during a ceremony on Saturday. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — The Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) installed a descriptive plaque outside Rangoon’s City Hall on Saturday, as part of a larger project to highlight colonial architecture throughout Burma’s biggest city.

The blue plaques initiative, as the US$75,000 project is known, will see 100 plaques installed outside sites of architectural and historical significance over the next year, with descriptions in Burmese and English languages about when each building was built and why it is important.

The High Court and the Central Fire Station will also receive plaques, as will the buildings that once housed the Rowe & Co. department store, the headquarters of the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company and Grindlays Bank.

“We will not only put plaques at buildings, but also along roads of historical significance and at places where internationally famous persons once lived,” Shwe Yinn Mar Oo, a senior communications officer at the YHT, told The Irrawaddy.

The project is being funded by Dutch electronics giant Philips, which partnered with the

YHT last year. Both groups originally planned to install 200 plaques in the city but were forced to scale back their plans due to the expense of ordering high-quality plaques from Australia.

Amsterdam-based Philips, which opened its first electronics shop in Rangoon last year, is also paying separately to illuminate the colonial buildings with light-emitting diode (LED) lights. It has already installed lights outside Mahabandoola Park and City Hall.

“With fast-paced urbanization and massive redevelopment underway, we believe sustainable LED lighting solutions can help conservation and to build livability, supporting Yangon’s goal to regain its stature as the jewel of Asia,” Alex Ngian, commercial leader of Philips Myanmar, said in a statement on Saturday.

YHT founder Thant Myint-U said he hoped the plaques would draw attention to Rangoon’s importance not only in Burma, but also for international history.

“It has witnessed two Anglo-Burmese wars, the Second World War, British and Japanese occupation, a civil war, coups and uprisings. It’s been home to Myanmar’s top leaders, thinkers, writers and artists, as well as internationally renowned figures from the last Mogul Emperor to Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda,” he said of the city in a statement. “It has played host to icons from Mahatma Gandhi to Nikita Khrushchev. And it’s been home to millions of ordinary people from many different faiths and backgrounds.

“It’s a special city, a unique city, and all this is reflected in Yangon’s beautifully built heritage. This is what these plaques will recognize and celebrate. We hope it will help residents and visitors alike appreciate what is around them.”

2 Responses to Blue Plaques to Bring Attention to Rangoon’s Colonial Buildings

  1. So what about the slums and the sweat shops surrounding Rangoon. where the not-so-famous wretched poor Burmese have to live withour even access to clean water. Maybe Thant-Myint-U should go live there for some time first.

  2. I hope the lovely old synagogue is included. It is a magnificent building.

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