Residence of Burma’s First President to Become Heritage Site

By Htet Naing Zaw 8 September 2016

NAYPYIDAW — The residence of Burma’s first president, Sao Shwe Thaike, will be turned into a heritage tourist site, according to hotels and tourism minister U Ohn Maung.

Sao Shwe Thaike, an ethnic Shan, was the last saopha—or hereditary prince—of Shan State’s Yawnghwe (Nyaung Shwe). He became President of the Union of Burma in 1948 following the country’s independence from Britain and served as head of state until 1952.

The idea of turning his residence—known as Yawnghwe Haw—into a heritage site is still in a conceptual stage, said the minister in a Lower House session on Wednesday.

According to the minister, upon completion of the upgrades, the Haw will be open to visitors from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. two nights a week, with a night bazaar nearby.

“The development of heritage tourism will generate increased income and more job opportunities for locals. But it is not easy to develop a heritage tourism site. We need the advice of local and foreign experts and the support of locals,” said the minister.

The plan also includes guiding foreign visitors around the Haw, illuminating it twice weekly and forming a committee to conserve the building with the admission fees collected, according to the minister.

In July, Yawnghwe Township Lower House lawmaker Nay Myo led a group of departmental personnel to clear bushes in the Haw precinct.

The Haw was handed over to the Culture Department in 1972 and opened to the public as the Saopha Museum. In 2003, its name was changed to Yawnghwe Cultural Museum.

In 2005, UNESCO granted funds for a project to renovate the items on display at the museum, but the Culture Ministry rejected the funds and the renovation could not be carried out.

In July 2014, the Culture Ministry handed the museum over to the Shan State government.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.