Archaeologists want Myanmar forces to remove their artillery from a temple complex in a historically significant area of war-torn Rakhine state’s Mrauk-U township, saying that artillery shells fired from inside the zone have damaged ancient monuments.
Residents have reported that national troops have fired artillery from the archaeological zone towards areas where they believe that members of the rebel Arakan Army (AA) have been hiding since the two sides began fighting in the township more than a month ago.
Members of the Mrauk-U Archaeological Zone Protection Association sent a letter to Rakhine state Chief Minister Nyi Pu on April 9, objecting to the military’s shelling from the archaeological zone.
The letter mentioned that government troops placed artillery launchers on Sat Yone Mountain, in the Nga Pi Thel Ma and Nate Bu Zar Pagoda hills, in Amyint Taung fortress, on Shwe Taung and Yadanar Mann Aung Pagoda hills, and on other mountains where the Ye Hla Nga-Mann walls are located. It also said that the soldiers fired shells from these locations nearly every day.
via Myanmar Times, 02 April 2019: The Myanmar Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library will commission a survey to look at the effects of the recent armed conflict at the Mrauk-U temples. On a related story (below), a monk petitioned the governor to stop positioning forces on a hill where a historical pagoda is located.
A survey will look at the effects of recent armed clashes on the Mrauk-U historical zone, which is being considered for listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, said U Than Htike, director of the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library.
Despite the recent fighting between the Tatmadaw (military) and ethnic Arakan Army, the application to list Mrauk-U in Rakhine State as a world heritage site will be submitted in September and the survey will be conducted when the conflict ends.
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.
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.
via The Irrawaddy, 19 October 2018: Another tragic news of vandalism, this time from Mrauk-U. A dozen statues from Laymyethnar Pagoda were smashed by unknown vandals.
Source: Mrauk-U Archaeological site Facebook group
Authorities and conservationists in Rakhine State suspect local vandals for the damage of nearly a dozen Buddha images inside a 14th century temple Wednesday night in the ancient Arakanese royal capital of Mrauk-U.
Eleven of 28 Buddha images inside Sin Cha Seik Ward’s Lay Myat Hnar Temple were damaged, said Daw Khin Than, who chairs a government-supported conservation group in Mrauk-U.
From the 15th to 19th centuries Mrauk-U was the seat of a succession of Arakanese kings who at their height controlled much of modern-day western Myanmar, including Rakhine State, and eastern Bangladesh. Much of the ancient city remains well preserved and some 380 historic temples are scattered among the lush hills of northern Rakhine.
via The Irrawaddy, 29 June 2017: Expect a succession of nominations from Myanmar to Unesco’s World Heritage list in the next few years.
The Union minister of religious affairs and culture U Aung Ko said his ministry plans to nominate Arakan State’s Mrauk U and Shwedagon Pagoda for UNESCO’s list of culturally significant sites after Bagan.
Since 2016, countries have been limited to one UNESCO nomination per year so the ministry chose Bagan first, said the minister.
The draft report and draft management plan needed for Bagan’s nomination will be submitted in September and UNESCO officials will visit the site in 2018.
With a forgotten temple city, Myanmar hopes to strike tourism gold
When time began there lived a lonely monkey who met a peacock, who laid an egg from which was born a mighty prince who built a city on the spot of his birth and called it “monkey egg”. Whatever the myths around its creation, by the 15th century, Mrauk U (Monkey Egg) was the capital of a powerful kingdom and one of the richest cities in Asia.
Up to the 18th century, it was a vital trading port for rice, ivory, elephants, tree sap and deer hide, cotton, slaves, horses, spices and textiles from India, Persia and Arabia.
In the centuries since, it crumbled into a backwater town in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state. But the city where Christians, Muslims and Buddhists once lived in harmony can still be glimpsed in its hundreds of ruined temples, fortifications and storehouses – mostly ignored for more than 100 years.
Arrests were made in Myanmar’s Rakhine state when people illegally removed earth from the Mrauk-U site. The removal of earth appears to be in conjunction with construction rather than archaeological looting.
Police arrested 28 people illegally removing earth from the Mrauk-U archaeological site in Arakan State on 5 March, according to U Nyein Lwin, the Director General of the Mrauk-U Archaeology Department.
He said: “I had issued a strict notice prohibiting any digging activity in those ancient areas but they did not follow my direction. So I went to the location along with other officials and finally ordered them to arrest the offenders.”
Mrauk-U is an archaeologically important site containing many ancient forts. Previously Battalion LIB 378 of the Burma Army occupied the site, but they have since moved to another area.