Arakanese People concerned with the Junta?s so-called Restoration of Ancient Pagoda

The Buddhist Channel, Sept 6, 2005 (Source: Narinjara News)

Yangon, Myanmar -- Arakanese people are very concerned with the “restoration” of one of their heritage sites, the ancient Koe Thaung Pagoda in Maruk U.

 Inside Koe Thaung temple

Though the Koe Thaung renovation is being conducted by the Burmese Archeological Department, there is no systematic expertise being used in the process. Instead of using those with knowledge in restoration of ancient architecture and buildings, lay builders and even soldiers are employed to use modern cement and bricks in the Koe Thaung pagoda.

An Arakanese monk from Mrauk U who visited the restoration site says,  “They are not really restoring the pagoda. They are simply destroying the whole thing with such unsystematic ways. They are not really fixing the breakages of the old statues and buildings. They may seem to be fixing up the old pagoda, but they are destroying our heritage. When they try to fix a broken statue, if the pieces didn’t fit together, they just hack away and change the whole statue. That totally destroys the original features. I think it would be better off leaving it alone than using such so-called restoration.”

There has been no consultation with international experts on the old heritage or Arakanese arts and architecture, or the local Arakanese people with expertise and interests in their heritage.

According to the Archeological Department, the restoration project is funded by the junta and donations have been forcefully collected from the public.  The project is said to be twenty five percent completed.

Koe Thaung was built in 1553-56 AD by the Arakanese King Min Dikkha, son of king Min Bin who also built Shit Thaung, "80,000 Images" pagoda, after he conquered Bengal. Koe Thaung means 90,000 statues and it is one of the most famous ancient pagodas in Arakan state.