Plans to Privatize Pair of Rangoon Heritage Buildings Shelved

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 4 December 2014

RANGOON — Burma’s Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration (DICA) will return two Rangoon heritage buildings to the government that it had slated for privatization, after the directorate was unable to compile a sufficient historical ownership record, DICA’s director general Aung Naing Oo said this week.

Last year, DICA announced that it would allow four Rangoon heritage buildings owned by the government to be sold to the private sector. The former Export and Import Enterprise office at the corner of Merchant and Mahabandoola streets and the ex-office of the Commerce Ministry’s Corporation No. 5 on Bo Sun Pat Street have already been sold to private companies.

The local firm Apple Tree Co. Ltd. was sold the Corporation No. 5 building and Inya Lake View Resort and Cho Zaw Construction were jointly sold the Export and Import Enterprise office, according to an announcement from DICA this week.

However, two other heritage buildings targeted for privatization—the former head office of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism on Sule Pagoda Road and the old Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise office on Merchant Street in Pabedan Township—will not be turned over to private hands.

“We can’t do it without official documents of ownership records for the two buildings, that’s why we’ll return these buildings to the government,” said Aung Naing Oo, who did not indicate which government entity would manage the buildings once they are returned to public ownership.

Under government regulations, a full ownership record is needed before a public building can be turned over to private hands.

Moe Moe Lwin, director of the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT), said that if the government planned to take back the buildings, it should invest in their upkeep.

“The government can use these buildings for another purpose. They will have to consider long-term preservation [measures],” said Moe Moe Lwin, whose YHT is leading efforts to preserve the former capital’s colonial architecture.

“The former Ministry of Hotels and Tourism building was built in about 1905. … though some parts inside the building are ruined, it can still be used for another purpose,” she added.

Under British colonial rule, the ministry’s office was known as the Fytche Square Building.

YHT is working with the government to preserve Rangoon’s heritage buildings, scores of which today lie in various states of neglect. It has compiled a list of more than 1,000 publicly and privately owned buildings that it considers of heritage value. The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) has put together a smaller list of between 100 and 200 public buildings in the city.

DICA has not yet announced how much the winning companies of the two other heritage buildings will invest in the properties, which are expected to be repurposed as hotels. DICA’s deputy director San San Myint said the companies would enter into detailed discussions with the Rangoon Division government soon.