RANGOON — Local authorities in Arakan State’s ancient city of Mrauk U have prevented stone carvings from being destroyed during the construction of a road this month, according to local conservation specialists.
At a site about five miles outside of Mrauk U, Su Htoo San Construction Co. was reportedly mining for materials to build a road connecting two villages, according to San Win, deputy director of Mrauk U Department of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Conservation.
“As soon as local authorities intervened and prohibited any further destruction, the workers stopped immediately,” said San Win.
In recent years, negligent mining efforts have caused damage to multiple Mrauk U artifacts. The stone carvings affected in this incident depict ancient Arakanese ways of life and were used in ceremonies to honor a local deity.
“These stone sculptures should not be destroyed and should be conserved as part of our heritage,” Khin Than, chairperson of the Mrauk U Heritage Trust, told The Irrawaddy.
In an effort to protect the area, officials have ordered Su Htoo San not to work near the archeological site. They are allowed to continue mining farther away from the areas of cultural significance, Khin Than added.
Home to some 380 temples, Mrauk U was the capital of the Arakan kingdom between the 15th and 18th centuries. Under Thein Sein’s government, Arakan State reportedly spent 1.5 billion kyats (over US$1.2 million) to preserve the city, according to the state’s annual audit report. In February, The Irrawaddy explored possible mismanagement involved in these costly conservation efforts.
In recent years, the Burmese government and Arakan State authorities began taking measures to improve preservation efforts in hopes of listing Mrauk U as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.