Ancient Rakhine City of Mrauk-U Proposed for UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 28 January 2020

YANGON—Myanmar’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture submitted the final draft of its nomination for Mrauk-U to become a World Heritage Site to UNESCO on Monday, four months after the ministry submitted the first draft of its nomination in September 2019.

If the application succeeds, Mrauk-U will be the third place in Myanmar to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after the ancient cities of Bagan and Pyu.

Mrauk-U is located in northern Rakhine State, around 60 km from the state capital of Sittwe.

The ancient city was the seat of Arakanese kings from the 1400s until the late 1700s. At the height of their power, they controlled an area covering large parts of eastern Bengal, modern-day Rakhine State and the western part of central Myanmar.

Much of the city’s remains are well-preserved and some 380 historic temples are scattered between the lush hills of northern Rakhine.

Mrauk-U Heritage Trust chairwoman Daw Khin Than told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that UNESCO will first visit the Mrauk-U heritage sites secretly as tourists in mid-2020 and then will launch their official inspections in September 2020. UNESCO will decide if Mrauk-U will be listed as a World Heritage Site in 2021.

The town saw occasional fighting in 2019 between Myanmar military troops and the Arakan Army (AA), a local ethnic armed group seeking autonomy.

”We are not sure if there will be fighting during the follow up visit when UNESCO inspects the heritage sites. We are worried about that,” said Daw Khin Than.

She also said that due to clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA), some ancient pagodas in Mrauk-U have reportedly been damaged.

Bagan, an archaeological zone and major tourist attraction in central Myanmar, was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in July 2019 after many years and multiple attempts.

The ancient Pyu cities of Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksretra were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014. The cities are the remains of the Pyu kingdoms that spanned eleven centuries, from 200 BC to 900 AD.

Myanmar has also submitted drafts for 12 other sites to be considered for UNSECO World Heritage status.

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