Cash Donations Rising for Myanmar Pagodas: Religion Minister

By Htun Htun 5 July 2017

YANGON — Cash donations by pilgrims and visitors to famous pagodas in Myanmar have risen over the past year, according to the Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture U Aung Ko.

The ministry issued a statement in late June, detailing its achievements since 2016. The previous government handed more than 58 billion kyats and US$14.8 million over to the new administration, it said, as funds for Shwedagon Pagoda.

The ministry then reformed the pagoda’s board of trustees, and within the following financial year, which started on April 1, 2016 and ended on May 31, the pagoda received more than 2 billion kyats and $100,000 in donations.

The ministry also saw an increase of more than 3 billion kyats each in donations to Mon State’s Kyaiktiyo and Mandalay’s Maha Myat Muni pagodas after forming new boards of trustees at the two sites, according to the statement.

“We have saved the cash donations from Shwedagon Pagoda at the Myanmar Economic Bank, and the bank has difficulties paying the interest monthly. So, we bought 12-year treasury bonds with that money. We will get the money along with interest after 12 years,” the minister told reporters at a full meeting of the state Buddhist authority State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, popularly known by the Burmese language acronym Ma Ha Na on Monday in Yangon.

The ministry also manages contracts of services provided for the famous pagodas, such as parking and accommodation facilities, as well as overseeing other aspects of running the pagodas, said the statement.

“For example, money donated into the donation box for electricity can only be used for lighting the pagoda. Money donated for gilding can only be used for that purpose, but not on other things,” said the minister.

The culture ministry is preparing to nominate Shwedagon Pagoda for UNESCO’s list of culturally significant sites in 2019 after Bagan and Rakhine State’s Mrauk U.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.