Hotels Near Bagan Temples Can Stay Put For UNESCO Bid, Minister Says

By Moe Moe 28 September 2018

NAYPYITAW — Religious Affairs and Culture Minister U Aung Ko said hotels will not have to be moved out of the Bagan Archeological Zone in order for Myanmar to nominate it for approval as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

He said the ministry would submit recently approved amendments to the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions Law to UNESCO, the UN’s culture and heritage body, by February. The amendments seek Bagan’s nomination as a World Heritage Site without having to move existing hotels out of the archeological zone or prevent new hotels from going up inside.

Bagan is home to some 3,000 pagodas and temples dating from the 9th to 13th centuries —when the Kingdom of Bagan ruled over much of lowland Myanmar — and is considered Myanmar’s main tourist draw, on par with Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

Since 1994, the country has sought to register the area as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But its initial application was rejected for a lack of management plans addressing sub-standard, inauthentic restorations and because of controversial hotel developments in the archaeological zone completed under previous governments.

In 2014 the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture nominated Bagan for a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing again. It submitted the first draft of a new nomination dossier in 2016 and a final version in January.

The ministry says there are now 40 hotels standing or under construction in the archeological zone.

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a UNESCO advisory body, recently carried out a ground inspection of the area in order to offer its assessment of Bagan’s bid.

”They surveyed Bagan for about 10 days, and they also interviewed hoteliers and local residents. They said we prepared what we stated in the dossier properly and that we passed the test, and that they would present their findings to the World Heritage Committee meeting next year,” said U Aung Ko.

ICOMOS has already submitted a 2,000-page report on the pagodas, temples, murals, inscriptions and pagoda festivals of Bagan to the UNESCO World Heritage Center in France.

The 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee will decide whether Bagan should be named a World Heritage Site when it convenes in Azerbaijan in July.

Ko Kaung Myat Min, a souvenir vendor in Bagan, is optimistic.

“There will surely be more visitors if Bagan is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. The more the visitors, the more they will enjoy Bagan,” she said.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.