Thursday, March 22, 2012

64 - WAO (USA) Writes Letter to UNESCO to Save the Ancient City of Mrauk U

WAO (USA) Writes Letter to UNESCO to Save the Ancient City of Mrauk U

Dhaka: The World Arakanese Association (USA) has sent an appeal letter to UNESCO through Irina Bokova, Director-General, to save the ancient city of Mrauk U from further destruction at the hands of the Burmese military junta, said Ko Kyaw Htoo Aung, General Secretary of WAO (USA).

He said, "We sent the letter to Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on 9 December on behalf of the Arakanese community, of the World Arakanese Organization (USA) on the matter of protecting our ancient city of Mrauk U from further destruction by the Burmese military government. Many ancient heritage sites have been damaged by railroad construction in Mrauk U."

Many ancient temples, walls, and pagodas in Mrauk U were damaged when the Burmese military authority constructed a portion of a new railway through historic sites in Mrauk U recently. After that, the WAO sent the letter to UNESCO to save Mrauk U from further destruction.

"UNESCO is the largest organization in the world to protect historic sites globally. Mrauk U is also an ancient historic site in Burma. So we hope UNESCO will protect and save our historic sites. Because of this, our organization wrote the letter to UNESCO," he said.

According to inside sources, many pagodas, stupas, forts, religious libraries, moats, and city walls were damaged or destroyed in recent construction of the rail track. The historic sites that have been destroyed or damaged so far include: Laung Bwann Brauk, Pagodas on Thazontan Hill, Mungala Manaung Pagoda, Munglar Wall, Khrunkite Wall, Khrunkite Fortress, Praysoegree Pagoda, Mong-Thami Moat, Ahmrunt Taung Fortress, Ray Hla Fortress, Ray Hla Moat, Ray Hla Wall, Para Ouk Pagoda, Mong Khong Shwe Du Pagoda.

Authorities have now moved the path of the railway to another area after Arakanese people expressed opposition to the original route in a letter to high authorities in Naypyidaw and the department of archaeology. The railway route was moved after two ministers - Transport Minister U Thein Swe and Industry Minister 1 U Aung Thaung - came to Mrauk U in the last week of November to inspect the area.

However, there are no plans as of yet by the authority to restore the ancient sites that were damaged during the initial railway construction.

"The heritage in Mrauk U is invaluable not only for our Arakanese people but also others who love antiques and heritage. So we have requested UNESCO and the international community to save our ancient city of Mrauk U from further destruction at the hands of the junta," Kyaw added.

In the letter the WAO provided information about the ancient city of Mrauk U and Arakan, as follows:

"Arakanese are one of the indigenous people of Burma (Myanmar) and Arakan became a part of Burma after occupation by the Burmese king in 1784. Mrauk U (Myauk-U) was the last capital of the Mrauk U Kingdom, the most developed and powerful Arakanese kingdom. It was established in 1430 by Kin Min Saw Mon and it grew into a major business hub along the eastern shore of the Bay of Bengal, trading not just with Asian powers but also with European powers such as the Portuguese and the Dutch. During the prosperous times of Mrauk U, the kings, ministers, and peasants built many pagodas and temples for religious purposes and fortresses and moats for security purposes. Now they all are in danger due to the government's railroad project. I understand basic infrastructures such as railroads are the backbone for the growth of the nation and they are extremely needed in poor Burma. However, in this era of construction, any construction project planning requires not only cost and benefits analysis, but also assessment of the impact on environment and historic places. Public comments should also be collected and considered in the planning process. In contrast to the typical standard procedures, the current military government of Burma contracted the project to a construction firm that has no local knowledge whatsoever.

The Burmese government has a record of damaging and destroying the historic sites of ancient Danyawaddy (2666 BCE - 788) and Vesali (788 - 1010 CE) in the past in the name of constructing highways and railroads, and we Arakanese are very worried about the impacts."

The letter was sent to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and was undersigned by Ko Sein Tun, President of the WAO (USA).

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