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An unholy row has broken out between two government ministries over allegations of disrespect for Bagan’s ancient pagodas. The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has hit out at the abrupt ban announced by the Ministry of Culture on the practice of climbing on the sacred buildings to catch a view of the sunset.

The ban was announced on February 22, effective March 1, after a medical company had conducted a show on Pyathagyi Pagoda featuring singing and dancing, which culture officials had denounced for its “ugly impact” on the nation’s culture.

Aligning itself with tourism industry leaders, who have already attacked the ban, the vice minister for tourism, Sai Kyaw Ohn, yesterday told The Myanmar Times that his ministry had not been consulted.

“[This ban] will seriously impact the tourism sector. We accept the need for the long-term conservation of pagodas. But the ban should not have been imposed before an alternative viewing location had been put in place,” he said, adding, “There was no discussion between our two ministries before the release of this announcement.”

The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is still waiting to receive official notification from the culture ministry, he said.

U Zaw Zaw Tun, director of the Ministry of Culture, was unrepentant, confirming that the announcement would not be withdrawn or changed. “We are doing our duty. We believe our ancient national resources are more valuable and important than tourism income. We have to act to maintain these treasures and ensure they do not disappear,” he said.

Attracting tourists was the job of the tourism industry, not the Ministry of Culture, he added.

However, last night a senior official from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Yangon said it had been informed the Ministry of Culture was reviewing the decision.

“UNESCO has been informed by the Ministry of Culture that they are reviewing their decision and will come up with a mutually acceptable solution soon,” said Sardar Umar Alam, the head of the UNESCO office in Yangon.

The Ministry of Culture could not be reached for confirmation by deadline.
But even Ministry of Culture officials in Bagan appeared to be lukewarm on the directive.
U Thein Lwin, deputy director general of the Department of Archaeology and National Museum, told The Myanmar Times he hoped to “retain a normal situation for visitors”.

“So far we haven’t got any directive from [the ministry in] Nay Pyi Taw,” U Thein Lwin said.

The trouble started after a video and photos were posted to Facebook showing staff from Lucky Time Trading Company celebrating at Bagan’s Pyathagyi Pagoda.

“We didn’t mean this to happen and we very much regret it,” said Daw Htay Htay Mon, the company’s deputy general manager.

She said the company has since submitted a letter of apology to the Department of Archaeology and National Museum, and also published an apology statement in state-owned media.

But the ban remains in place, much to the tourism industry’s chagrin.

Daw Hla Darli Khin, director of 7 Days Travel and Tours, said the practice should have been permitted on a limited number of pagodas for visitors willing to pay an entrance fee.

“We’re terribly upset. How can we sell a Bagan itinerary, and where are people supposed to view the sunset from?” she said.

U Nyi, joint secretary of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, said there were pagodas sturdy enough to be used as viewing platforms, a highly popular practice among visitors. Rather than a flat-out ban, they should be managed closely to ensure their long-term survival.

“Angkor Wat in Cambodia limits the number of people allowed in the temple, and some similar way could be found,” he said. “The association will write to the ministry before March 1 to propose other solutions.”

It is unclear how the ban will impact the government’s quest to have Bagan included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Allegations of inappropriate development and poor management of the site have continually stalled Bagan’s application, which was first submitted two decades ago.

But in recent years the Ministry of Culture has recently taken several steps to address these concerns. In 2014 it blocked more than 40 hotel projects – most already approved and under construction – after deeming them to be inside a conservation zone. More recently, hot-air balloon flights have also been subject to new restrictions.
By Ei Ei Thu | Wednesday, 24 February 2016
Credit : Myanmar Times

Tourism industry leaders in Bagan have condemned a Ministry of Culture decision to ban visitors from climbing on ancient pagodas in the world-renowned archaeological zone.

Watching the sunset from the top of a pagoda is one of Bagan’s main tourism drawcards, and is regularly cited as a “must-do” when visiting Myanmar. But yesterday the Ministry of Culture said all climbing on pagodas would be banned from March 1, following public backlash against a video showing a song-and-dance performance on top of one structure.

The ministry said in a post to its Facebook page that it took the decision because a medical company had conducted a cultural show on Pyathagyi Pagoda in the second week of February, describing dancing and singing on pagodas as having an “ugly impact” on Myanmar’s culture.
The ban will also ensure the pagodas are “maintained for the long term”, the ministry said.
The growing number of local and foreign visitors to Bagan – the number of foreigners has more than double since 2011, from 120,000 to 250,000 last year – means hundreds are turning up each evening to ascend the temples, placing strain on the ancient structures.

But tourism business operators in Bagan were scathing of the decision, which they said was poorly thought out and damaging for the industry.

“I’m totally against the decision. The main reason tourists come here is to enjoy the views from the pagodas. This will damage the image of Bagan,” said U Zaw Win Cho, chair of the Bagan Guide Association.

“We want this decision to be reconsidered. They can punish this [medical] company directly. If they think climbing damages the pagodas, they should only allow it on temples that have no ancient art, have a strong structure and can hold over 300 people. That would solve the problem,” he said.

Another business owner in Bagan suggested that alternative viewing sites should be arranged before any ban is introduced.

“Tourists will be upset when they come and visit to Bagan but are not allowed to climb the pagodas,” said U Khin Maung Htwe from New Bagan, who runs a travel agency and restaurant. He said businesses were also upset at the ministry’s failure to consult with them before making decisions about managing the archaeological site.

Bagan has more than 3000 ancient pagodas and temples, of which five are particularly popular for watching sunsets: Shwesandaw, Thitsarwady, Pyathetgyi, Shwenanyindaw and Oah Chan Pae Kone.

As The Myanmar Times reported last month, the Japan International Cooperation Agency has proposed building a raised earthen bank at the northwest corner of Nyaung Lat Phat pond near Sulamani temple for tourists to watch sunsets. The proposal is being considered by the government.

By Ei Ei Thu | Tuesday, 23 February 2016
Credit: Myanmar Times

ONE Championship Returns to Myanmar With 'ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS' in Yangon on 18 March

There’s nothing quite like having a local fighter in the main event of a fight card packed with some of the best mixed martial arts in Asia.

That’s exactly what has MMA fans in Myanmar cheering right now, as ONE Championship has just announced “The Burmese Python” Aung La N Sang will be headlining ONE: UNION OF WARRIORS in Yangon’s Thuwanna Indoor Stadium on 18 Mar.

He is joined in this increasingly stacked event by former ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano “Black Diamond” Moraes, as well as a pair of duelling prospects in rising stars Christian Lee and Keanu Subba.

One of the most prominent fighters to ever emerge out of Myanmar, Aung (in white shorts above) has fought for more than a decade all around the world, accumulating a respectable 16-9 record.

Native to the Myitkyina region of the country’s mountainous Kachin State, “The Burmese Python” returns to his homeland seeking to build on the success of his triumphant ONE debut. He faces Mohamed Ali of Alexandria, Egypt, an experienced veteran looking to bounce back from a tough loss.

As for Moraes, he is on a determined path to regain the title he lost via a heartbreaking split decision in November of last year. Standing in his way is Filipino flyweight Eugene Toquero, one of the flashiest and dynamic athletes in the division. image

The stakes are also high in the bout between Singapore’s Christian Lee and Malaysia’s Keanu Subba. Besides an opportunity to add to their growing win streaks and impressive highlight-reel finishes, these young guns will also be facing each other that night to determine who the real future of ONE’s featherweight division will be. (Reuters)

Author: MBT | 20 February, 2016 10:46 am | Vol 4 Issue 8
Credit : Myanmar Business Today

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