Daw Suu flags Bagan sunset viewing ban as govt readies for heritage listing

BAGAN — The government will this year submit a formal application to have Bagan placed on the United Nations’ World Heritage List, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The comments come as State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi toured the site and flagged a possible ban on sunrise and sunset viewing from the temples.

U Kyaw Oo Lwin, director general of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library, said the National League for Democracy-backed government hoped to achieve listing by the end of its term in early 2021.

The government will lodge a formal application in the middle of this year, he added.

“The application process for world heritage listing usually takes three years, so Bagan might be on the World Heritage List in 2019 or 2020.”

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Kyaw Oo Lwin was speaking as Aung San Suu Kyi toured the ancient capital with members of the royal family of Bhutan on Tuesday.

The state-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar quoted the state counsellor as saying during the visit that she believed sunset and sunrise viewing from the top of some of Bagan’s temples should be banned.

“Sunset and sunrise viewing on the temples can cause damage to the cultural heritage, and that is not suitable in the long-run and should be banned in the future,” Aung San Suu Kyi said.

She suggested building alternative structures for sunset and sunrise viewing, which is popular with both foreign and local visitors to Bagan.

The military regime sought to have Bagan added to the World Heritage List in 1996 but was rebuffed because of the development of hotels close to heritage sites and renovations to temples that damaged their historical integrity.

Bagan is home to more than 2,000 temples that were built between the 11th and 13th centuries, during what is known as the first Burmese empire. The ancient city attracts around 750,000 visitors a year but the number is growing rapidly, raising concerns about sustainable management of the site’s attractions.

In September 2016, an official from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told AFP that Bagan was “very likely” to be listed in 2019.

An earthquake the previous month destroyed many of the botched restorations overseen by the military.

The head of UNESCO’s Yangon office, Mr Sardar Umar Alam, said this would allow fresh work more in keeping with the original design.

“The experts that are working on the site, they are confident that yes, the site stands a good chance,” he was quoted as saying.

After the earthquake, Aung San Suu Kyi cautioned against rushing renovation work at Bagan.

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