Pyu Cities Snag Burma’s First Unesco World Heritage Listing

By The Irrawaddy 23 June 2014

RANGOON — The ancient city-states of Pyu became Burma’s first entry into the Unesco World Heritage List on Sunday, with the three sites securing the endorsement of the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Doha, Qatar.

The trio of cities—Halin, Beikthano and Sri Ksetra—are located in Burma’s central Dry Zone and feature the walled remains of sites built by the now-extinct Pyu people from the first to ninth centuries AD.

At Sri Ksetra in Pegu Division, the ruins of what was once Southeast Asia’s largest walled city cover an area of about 18 square miles, with the remains of a royal palace at the center. Halin in Sagaing Division and Beikthano in Magwe Division likewise include the ruins—enclosed by the remains of brick fortifications and featuring elaborate irrigation systems—of ancient Pyu city-states.

Thant Myint-U, chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust, said the listing was a major step toward additional recognition of Burma’s historical heritage from the UN cultural body.

“Many more [World Heritage listings] are possible and it’s been critically important to achieve this initial listing. The proper safeguarding of these and other sites now becomes much more possible,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“Congratulations to the Myanmar team that have been working on this for many months.”

The Pyu sites together formed one of 15 historical and natural sites in Burma on the tentative list for World Heritage status. Other sites put forward as potential listings for World Heritage recognition include Inle Lake in Shan State, the Myeik Archipelago in Tenasserim Division and Bagan, the ancient Buddhist temple complex in Mandalay Division.

“A more complex appreciation of our past and its many and varied traditions is really key to a peaceful and more tolerant future,” Thant Myint-U wrote on Sunday.