Govt Prepares Mrauk-U UNESCO Bid

By Khin Oo Tha 23 August 2017

YANGON — The Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs and Rakhine State authorities are drafting an application for next year to get the old Arakanese capital Mrauk-U recognized by UNESCO.

The proposal to mark the archaeological zone on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list will be submitted by September next year, said Daw Nu Mya Zan, chairperson of a sub-committee compiling the report for the bid.

The initial application will include a report and management plan, a second application will be submitted in 2019, and the final application in early 2020, added Daw Nu Mya Zan, who previously served as the deputy director general of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library.

From the 15th century to the late 1800s, Mrauk-U was the seat of Arakanese kings, who at the height of their power controlled an area covering large parts of eastern Bengal, modern-day Rakhine State and the western part of Lower Myanmar. Much of the city’s remains are well-preserved and some 380 historic temples are scattered between the lush hills of northern Rakhine.

Since 2014, the culture ministry has carried out digital mapping and improved preservation of Buddhist temples and palace grounds in Mrauk-U.

World Cultural Council officials, experts from UNESCO, local and foreign historians, Arakanese history researchers, state government workers, and lawmakers held a workshop in Mrauk-U on Monday.

“There are selection criteria for UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition. The workshop discussed which criteria most fit Mrauk-U so as to present it in the application. And two criteria were initially agreed upon to present in the application,” said Daw Nu Mya Zan.

These two criteria promoted Mrauk-U as “bearing a unique” or exceptional testimony to a “cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or has disappeared,” and the ability to “transcend national boundaries and be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”

Daw Khin Thein, chairperson of the bid’s sub-committee on historical facts, said Mrauk-U residents do not need to relocate their houses for the process.

The archaeology department has formed 14 sub-committees to help prepare the nomination. At present, Rakhine State government is funding the process, and the Union government and international partners have also promised to provide funds, according to sub-committees.

Myanmar’s three ancient Pyu cities became the first to be recognized in the country by UNESCO in June 2014. The government has also nominated Bagan for the same status.

Mrauk-U is located on the Kaladan River in northern Rakhine State, some 60 kilometers inland from the state capital Sittwe. Internal violence between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims that erupted in mid-2012 has driven down tourist numbers to the area.

Following the violence, authorities closed down the old city for foreign tourists and although the ban was lifted after several months the area has seen only a trickle of visitors since.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.