Businesses Bid for Tourist Exploitation of Historic Mandalay Palace
By Yan Pai 10 June 2013
Mandalay Division’s government said it is privatizing the tourist exploitation of the historic Mandalay Palace complex, the abode of Burma’s last kings, the Konbaung Dynasty.
In August, several firms were invited to submit a tender to manage commercial exploitation and ticket sales at the famed Mandalay Palace complex, said Nyo Myint Tun, a supervisor of Mandalay Division’s archeological department, adding that no winner had been determined yet.
“This will be a step forward for the promotion of tourism. They [private developers] will manage the area to create a fascinating [setting] and they will also have the right to collect entrance fees, manage the sightseeing around the palace and promote their services through the media,” he told The Irrawaddy.
He said that the winning firm would invest in the development of tourist facilities at the palace complex such as public gardens, souvenir shops and restaurants.
Visitor facilities will be developed at main palace building (known as Mya Nan San Kyaw, or Great Golden Royal Palace) and other sites such as the stupas of King Mindon and his wives, the Royal Mint, and at the large moat around the complex, Nyo Myint Tun added.
He said the Ministry of Culture’s archeological department would maintain overall authority for the management of the palace and the recreational park, and carry out maintenance and repairs at the Mandalay Palace.
One businessman with knowledge of the bidding process said that Toe Naing Mann, the son of Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann, was a contender for the commercial development project. “U Toe Naing Man, son of Shwe Man, could get it,” said the man, who declined to be named.
Shwe Mann’s two son, Toe Naing Mann and Aung Thet Mann, own a number of companies in Burma, including the telecom firms E-lite and Redlink Communications
The military’s Central Burma Command will retain its location in a large compound situated in the Mandalay Palace complex. The dwellings within military quarters have been in use since the British colonial era and are reportedly in an extremely poor state after decades of neglect.
The Mandalay Palace was built in 1857 King Mindon of the Konbaung Dynasty, a line of kings that ruled from 1752 to 1885. Their reign was ended by the British colonial forces, which abolished Burma’s monarchy.
The complex was badly damaged during the heavy bombardments of Mandalay during World War II. It was repaired and reconstructed in 1989, shortly after Burma’s military came to power in a coup d’état.
The palace area is a major tourist draw for Mandalay and is likely to experience a sharp increase in foreign tourist visitors, who have begun flocking to Burma since its much-publicized democratic transition began.
At the World Economic Forum Asia in Naypyidaw last week, the government and the Asian Development Bank announced a Norway-funded $500 million master plan for the development of Burma’s tourism sector.
In expectation of the tourist industry boom authorities had already begun raising the price of the entrance fees for the famed palace complex, Nyo Myint Tun said — even before the development of tourist facilities had started.
Previously, foreign visitors could visit the whole palace area for US $10, but he said that per June 9 foreigners are expected to shell out the same amount just to see the main palace building alone. Burmese visitors pay a mere 200 kyat ($0.25) to see the building, he added.
Kyaw Lwin Oo, director general at the Ministry of Culture, said the ministry had recently transferred the management of two other palaces, Shwebo Yadanar Mingalar Palace and the Kanbawzathadi Palace, to the governments of Sagaing Division and Pegu Division, respectively.
Like in Mandalay, the Sagaing and Pegu government might also try to privatize the tourist exploitation of these lesser known palaces.
Shwebo Yadanar Mingalar Palace was reconstructed by Burma’s former military junta in 1999 at the site of the abode of Alaung Min Taya, the first ruler of the Konbaung Dynasty. The Kanbawzathadi Palace burned down in 1599, and the junta oversaw its reconstruction in 1992.