MAWLAMYINE, Mon State—Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, a sacred Buddhist pilgrimage site and a major tourist destination in Mon State’s Kyaikto Township also known as Golden Rock, will remain a protected zone and won’t be designated a cultural heritage zone in the near future due to culture ministry regulations.
The Ministry of Culture, since the country’s military regime, has designated areas as cultural heritage zones to conserve national heritage by introducing regulations such as restricting construction in the area.
It would be difficult for the pagoda board of trustees, locals, and business people to follow those regulations, said Mon State social affairs minister Dr. Htein Lin.
“If the pagoda is designated as a cultural heritage zone, then gold foils are not allowed to be affixed to the pagoda, and repairs can’t be made [without the approval of the culture ministry],” said Dr. Htein Lin.
The pagoda board of trustees carries out general maintenance works including complete gilding of the pagoda every three years. But, according to cultural heritage zone regulations, repairs of ancient pagodas need culture ministry approval.
There are a total of 22 heritage zone regulations, including a restriction on expansion of residential areas and a ban on buildings for other purposes in the zone, with penalties imposed for breaches.
“There are penalties for violations of those regulations. So, it is better to apply when we are in a position to abide to those regulations, otherwise we will be frequently penalized,” he said.
“It is easy to be designated as a cultural heritage zone, but it is difficult to follow the regulations,” he added, saying that the pagoda is currently designated as a protected zone.
U Sein Myint, a trustee of the pagoda, said it is more appropriate to conserve the pagoda as a protected zone as Kyaiktiyo Pagoda is the only ancient monument left on Mt. Kyaiktiyo.
“My personal view is that so many restrictions is not acceptable. Currently there is only one ancient monument left here, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda. Others have all been ruined. The old ordination hall was ruined, there is nothing ancient now,” said the trustee.
He suggested focusing on protecting Kyaiktiyo forest reserve rather than designating the rock as a cultural heritage zone.
Dubbed Golden Rock by the international community, Kyaiktiyo Pagoda lies in Kyaiktiyo forest reserve, which covers 38,606 acres of land managed by Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation.
Of the forest reserve, 6,692 acres are designated as a religious area, on which there are 16 pagodas and stupas, 33 monasteries, 41 departmental and administrative buildings plus around 1,000 monasteries and guesthouses, residential houses, and shops within the pagoda premises, according to records of the pagoda board of trustees.
The Ministry of Culture designated the pagoda as protected zone on Oct. 11, 1999.
Though the Mon State government wants to designate the pagoda as a cultural heritage zone, it will take time, said Dr. Htein Lin.