Culture Ministry to Nominate Bagan, Mrauk U, Shwedagon for UNESCO Recognition

By Htet Naing Zaw 29 June 2017

NAYPYITAW — The Union minister of religious affairs and culture U Aung Ko said his ministry plans to nominate Arakan State’s Mrauk U and Shwedagon Pagoda for UNESCO’s list of culturally significant sites after Bagan.

Since 2016, countries have been limited to one UNESCO nomination per year so the ministry chose Bagan first, said the minister.

The draft report and draft management plan needed for Bagan’s nomination will be submitted in September and UNESCO officials will visit the site in 2018.

Bagan’s nomination will then be brought up for deliberation at UNESCO’s 2019 World Heritage Site convention, according to the minister.

“We have invited international experts. We plan to nominate Rakhine State’s Mrauk U in 2018 and Shwedagon Pagoda in 2019. We’ll later nominate Khakaborazi [in Kachin State], Inle Lake [in Shan State], Indawgyi Lake [in Kachin State], Inwa [Ava], Mandalay and Sagaing,” the minister told reporters in Naypyitaw on Wednesday.

The ministry will no longer allow climbing on all of Bagan’s pagodas and is currently building platforms from which visitors will be able to watch sunrise and sunset.

Myanmar’s initial application for UNESCO recognition of Bagan came in 1996, but it was rejected due to poor management plans and legal frameworks.

After UNESCO inscribed the ancient Pyu cities as the first Burmese World Heritage Site in June 2014, the culture ministry decided to continue campaigning for the addition of Bagan.

UNESCO has accepted Bagan as a mixed cultural heritage zone following negotiations with the culture ministry and Mandalay divisional government which means that there is no need to relocate villages, hotels or guesthouses, said the minister.

The minister said the government would design plans for towns, industrial zones and hotel zones outside of Bagan in order to accommodate the increasing population.

U Oo Hla Saw, a Lower House lawmaker representing Mrauk U Township, said he welcomed the nomination of Mrauk U, but that there were no clear guidelines at this time for how to handle the government offices and residential wards located within the designated Mrauk U archaeological zone.

“While Rakhine people are happy about the nomination, they are also concerned that the whole town will be relocated,” he told The Irrawaddy.

In February, UNESCO officials and the culture ministry discussed technical matters related to the management of Shwedagon Pagoda for its future nomination.