Hoteliers Left in Limbo in Bagan

By Htet Naing Zaw 22 August 2016

NAYPYIDAW — The government remains undecided on whether to grant official approval to unsanctioned hotels that were built in Bagan’s famed archaeological zone without the permission of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture.

Existing laws prohibit commercial buildings in Bagan’s archaeological zone but for 25 hotels that have already been built, the ministry is debating whether to allow or demolish them, said Aye Ko Ko, director of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, at a press conference on the ministry’s 100-day plan in Naypyidaw on Friday.

“According to the law, hotels, motels and guesthouses can’t be built in archaeological zones unless the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture approves. This approval cannot be authorized by local authorities or our department,” said Aye Ko Ko.

“As for those 25 hotels, the minister has urged us to find a solution that is acceptable to both sides—to ensure that hotel owners do not suffer losses and that our cultural heritage is not affected,” said Aye Ko Ko.

Because Bagan is widely regarded as a national treasure, the ministry will work with other concerned ministries as well as local authorities to find the best possible solution, he added. Apart from the hotels that were constructed without approval, the department has received 17 proposals for new hotel projects since 2013.

“We rejected [the 17 proposals] immediately because the proposed projects were located in the ancient archaeological zone,” Aye Ko Ko said.

Tin Htoo Maung, the administrator of Nyaung U Township—which houses hundreds of pagodas—said he has not received official instruction regarding these hotels.

“The 25 hotels are not allowed to open yet. Hotels come to this region because of the cultural heritage. And because regional development also depends on the hotel industry, we need to consider both sides. It depends on the foresight of the upper leadership. Our duty is just to implement their instructions,” he said.

Nandar Hmun, permanent secretary of the ministry, said at the press conference, “We have adopted regulations that clarify which actions are against the law. Because Bagan is an archaeological area, we have designated zones there, such as the protective zone and the ancient zone. But hoteliers are unaware and when they build extensions, they encroach on these zones. And in some cases, they build without permission.”

Bagan locals generally oppose new hotel projects along with the appropriation of pagodas located on hotel compounds.

In 2012, businessmen attempted to establish a new hotel zone in Bagan with the approval of the Mandalay divisional government in response to opposition from locals and the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library.

With an increase in visitors, Bagan’s hotel industry is short of rooms, leading to conflict between hoteliers and locals.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.