Myanmar’s Bagan wins UNESCO heritage listing

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Pagodas are seen in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar, July 5, 2019. Xinhua

YANGON Xinhua Myanmar has hailed the listing of its ancient city of Bagan as a World Heritage Site announced at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held in Baku, Azerbaijan late Saturday.

The decision came five years after Myanmar’s three other ancient Pyu cities – Hanlin, Beikthano and Sri Kestra – won designation as the world heritage sites in 2014.

The Myanmar people were overjoyed with UNESCO’s announcement, pledging to continue their efforts to put more cultural heritage sites including Mrauk U in Rakhine state into the list.

Facebook and other social media platforms were immediately filled with comments welcoming the designation.

Individuals and organizations promoting Bagan also attended the committee’s session and a group of photographers, named “Bagan From Our Heart,” went to support the designation at their own cost.

The government has sought for Bagan’s inclusion in the world heritage list since 1996 but failed to meet certain standards or requirements. Myanmar applied again in 2018 with all the requirements met.

The application process, including courses, workshops, management meetings, thesis-related meetings and collecting research data, had been conducted since 2014.

The application to the committee stated that Bagan is a living heritage, and its customs, philosophy, faith, art and culture bear significant value.

The Bagan Ancient Cultural Zone, home to more than 3,000 ancient pagodas and religious edifices, has been in existence for more than 1,000 years. Buddhism has been practicing in Myanmar since the Bagan era in the ninth century.

Before winning the designation, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Archaeology and National Museum U Thein Lwin said: “If Bagan gets included in the list, it will raise our national integrity and promote tourism.”

Many foreign tourists come to Myanmar to visit Bagan, upgrading it from a national heritage to a world heritage will significantly boost tourism and it will, in turn, create more jobs for local residents.

An expert on heritage preservation, Daw Ommar Myo, said Bagan has an exceptionally high chance of entering the list as it has unique cultural value and architecture.

Bagan was hit by a 6.8-magnitude earthquake on Aug. 24, 2016, which damaged 389 pagodas. Emergency restoration work on the damaged pagodas was carried out rapidly after the disaster under a four-year plan.

Myanmar is also trying to submit a nomination dossier to UNESCO for the inclusion of another ancient town Mrauk U as one of the world heritage sites.

So far, the draft nomination dossier is scheduled to be prepared this month for submission to the World Heritage Center by the end of September, said Director-General of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library U Kyaw Lwin Oo, adding that he hopes the town could be listed as a World Heritage Site by 2021 after UNESCO’s inspection.

Mrauk U, formerly known as Mrohaung, is an archaeologically important town in Rakhine state, which was the capital of the Mrauk U Kingdom from 1430 to 1785. It is now a major archaeological and tourist destination, famed for its temples and ruins.

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