Heritage law promises more protection

Construction projects near old buildings and pagodas will be required to receive permission from the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library under a new law.

Yangon’s heritage buildings are increasingly viewed as a tourist draw, though many of them are under threat. The Protection and Preservation of Ancient Buildings Law passed last month is intended to protect the country’s ancient buildings, though the by-laws that will determine much of how the law works in practice have not yet been released.

The Ministry of Culture currently grants permission for construction near old buildings using the 1998 Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regional Law, though will shift to the new law when its by-laws are released.

The law also lays out prison terms of up to one year or fines of up to K1.5 million for transgressors. Daw Sandar Khin, deputy culture minister, said that further details are in the by-laws.

Still to be defined is exactly how close will be considered “near” an old building.

Experts say changes could be made to the legal structure to improve heritage preservation.

Yangon Heritage Trust on its website says the 1998 law does not contain the necessary breadth or flexibility to ensure the proper conservation of Yangon’s diverse and evolving urban heritage. It also applies to buildings over 100 years old, “meaning that much of Yangon’s significant urban heritage would not fall under its purview”.

Ma Shwe Yin Mar Oo, information officer with Yangon Heritage Trust, said there are 189 ancient buildings according to Yangon City Development Committee’s previous survey, though the number would likely increase into the thousands if another survey was conducted.

She added that experts are still studying the new law, so declined to comment further on the law for the time being.

Including pagodas and religious buildings, more than 5000 ancient buildings across Myanmar are recognised by the Ministry of Culture.

Source: Myanmar Times

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