MANDALAY — The consecration ceremony planned for a tomb believed to house the remains of 18th century Thai King Uthumphon in Amarapura Township near Mandalay was postponed after the Mandalay City Municipal Department (MCDC) ordered the area sealed on Friday.
The Mandalay municipal committee responsible for research on and restoration of the tomb said they sealed it because the work—which was carried out by a local team and supported by the Thai Royal Treasury—was illegal and broke Burmese archaeological laws.
“After reviewing the process, we did not find any agreement between the two governments,” said Nyo Myint Tun, director general of the Mandalay divisional department of archaeology and museums, at a press conference in Mandalay on Saturday.
“We told them to halt the restoration work while we verified the remains found in the tomb. But they continued working and broke the law. On top of that, they went forward with planning the re-consecration ceremony without informing MCDC or the regional government—so we decided to seal the area until further notice,” Nyo Myint Tun added.
Although the excavation and restoration work at the Lin Zin hill site started in 2013, the committee said they have no records confirming that both the Thai and Burmese governments officially approved it, said MCDC official Thet Naing Tun.
According to Mandalay Chief Minister Zaw Myint Maung, the letter of cooperation between the two governments was initially sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Religious Affairs and to the State Counselor’s Office in Naypyidaw.
“The ministries will contact the Thai government and in the meantime, the restoration process will stop until the two governments formally agree on it,” said the chief minister.
“If not, there will be many relationship problems between the two countries in future.”
Concurrently, the influential Burmese abbot Sitagu Sayadaw, who supported and instructed the restoration team, met with high ranking Thai Buddhist monks and officials from the Thai Royal Treasury. He reportedly explained the reasons for the delay and requested that the Thai government help by responding to MCDC’s proposal for government cooperation.
“We don’t understand why this restoration project became illegal. We have been working since 2013 with agreement from MCDC and the regional government. However, now that they want us to halt, we will wait for their approval,” said “Tampawaddy” Win Maung, who leads the restoration.