Archaeologists urge no-fire zone at Mrauk-U site

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People look at an unexploded rocket in Mrauk U township in Rakhine State on March 16. Source: Frontier Myanmar 20190320
People look at an unexploded rocket in Mrauk U township in Rakhine State on March 16. Source: Frontier Myanmar 20190320
People look at an unexploded rocket in Mrauk U township in Rakhine State on March 16. Source: Frontier Myanmar 20190320

via the Myanmar Times, 20 Mar 2019: Tensions in Mrauk U as people stay indoors and tourists have cleared out.

Archaeologists want the Mrauk-U cultural heritage zone to be declared off limits to combatants after an artillery shell damaged one of its ancient pagodas during a recent clash between government forces and the Arakan Army.

The Myanmar Archaeology Association urged combatants to avoid the area as it is being prepared for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In last Friday’s clash, an artillery shell hit the historic Mye Hte Pagoda and the security gate of a cultural conservation zone near Tukkathein Pagoda.

Myanmar is a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which urges conflicting parties against targeting cultural heritage areas, using them as forts, or fighting in those areas.

Source: Archaeologists urge no-fire zone at Mrauk-U site | The Myanmar Times

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Armed conflict at Mrauk-U damages temples and displaces villagers

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View from hazy sunset over silhouette Ratanabon Paya in Mrauk-U, Myanmar
View from hazy sunset over silhouette Ratanabon Paya in Mrauk-U, Myanmar
View from hazy sunset over silhouette Ratanabon Paya in Mrauk-U, Myanmar. Stock photos from Shutterstock / isarescheewin

via various news sources, 18-19 March 2019: Reports of armed conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar armed forces in Rakhine. Local villagers have been displaced to flee the conflict zones, while some temples of the Mrauk-U archaeological site have been damaged from weapons fire. Myanmar is currently preparing to nominate Mrauk U as a world heritage site.

 

Not only residents of Mrauk-U, but also archaeologists are concerned about the effects of the ongoing hostilities in their ancient township.

Battles between Myanmar and Arakan forces damaged some of the township archeological heritage buildings and have become an obstacle to efforts to include the monuments on the UNESCO World Heritage list, residents and archaeologists said.

Hundreds of ancient but well-preserved temples and pagodas that dot the area’s hills are remnants of a powerful empire that existed there from the 15th century to the late 18th century.

“The damage inside the archaeological heritage areas caused by the ongoing fighting could be irreparable,” said Khin Than, chairwoman of the group Mrauk-U Heritage Trust.

“I am concerned that these irreplaceable archaeological treasures won’t be able to survive if there is heavy artillery firing and bombing by airstrikes,” she said. “Locals who live inside the archaeological zone also want peace and stability. Nobody wants war.”

The A-Naut-Myae-Htae pagoda was hit by fallen mortar shells during a night of shooting and shelling in Mrauk-U on March 15, said Than Htike, director of Mrauk-U’s Archaeological Department.

A security tent near the Shite-Thaung pagoda, an iconic monument among Rakhine’s archeological sites, was hit by heavy artillery, while bullets fell in the vicinity, which is designated as an archaeological zone, he said.

Source: Weekend Fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine Drives 400 Villagers From Their Homes

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Mrauk-U restoration fraught with problems

Monuments in Mrauk-U improperly restored. Source: The Irrawaddy 20160224

A news report from the Irrawaddy highlights various problems with a recent campaign to restore the monuments of Mrauk-U in western Myanmar: improper restoration techniques, unauthorised construction and mismanagement of funds.

Monuments in Mrauk-U improperly restored. Source: The Irrawaddy 20160224

Monuments in Mrauk-U improperly restored. Source: The Irrawaddy 20160224

The Million Dollar Mismanagement of Mrauk U
The Irrawady, 24 February 2016

At Mrauk U, Living Heritage and Crumbling Splendor in Need of Conservation
The Irrawady, 26 February 2016

At Mrauk U, Living Heritage and Crumbling Splendor in Need of Conservation
The Irrawady, 26 February 2016

Throughout outgoing President Thein Sein’s term, the Arakan State government spent 1.5 billion kyats (over US$1.2 million) to preserve the remnants of the ancient Arakanese Mrauk U kingdom, according to the state’s annual audit report.

Yet some officials connected with the project allege that it has been fraught with mismanagement. Khin Than, chairperson of Mrauk U-based Heritage Trust, claims that halls within two famous temple complexes—the Ko-thaung and Shite-thaung pagodas—were damaged by government contractors’ negligence. New shrines were built alongside originals, she added—constructed out of concrete and sandstone.

Archaeologists and scholars of Mrauk U, which boasts more than 1,500 documented temples, have advocated for its classification as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but fear that unscrupulous renovation of the ancient locale will put such an achievement further from reach.

Full story here and here.

‘Rakhaine’ boat salvaged in Bangladesh

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Archaeologists in Bangladesh have finished excavating a ship thought to belong to Rakhaine settlers who originated from Arakan in Myanmar.

Work starts to salvage historic boat
The Daily Star, 07 January 2013

Ancient ‘Rakhaine’ boat to be moved to safer place soon
The Daily Star, 09 January 2013
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Wednesday Rojak #4

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We visit Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia for some kite flying, coastal kingdoms and hobbits – all in this week’s edition of Wednesday Rojak!

  • Adam in Cambodia shows an impressive miniature of Angkor Wat and the man who built it.
  • Chea Sophorn introduces us to the ancient Khmer pastime of kite-flying.
  • Learn about the ancient coastal region of Arakan, in Myanmar (Burma).
  • Ruben Latre releases a trailer for an upcoming documentary, Angkor City of Gods.
  • And, for anyone keeping track of the Flores Hobbit or homo floresiensis saga, Nick Carlton of Strange Corridor has a great summary of the story so far.

In this series of weekly rojaks (published on Wednesdays) I’ll feature other sites in the blogosphere that are of related to archaeology in Southeast Asia. Got a recommendation for the next Wednesday rojak? Email me!

[tags]Khmer kite-flying, Angkor miniatures, homo floresiensis, Arakan, Angkor documentary[/tags]