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Ancient Rakhine cultural heritage smuggled off aboard

Myitmakha News Agency

Mrauk U, February 16 – archaeologists have voiced concerns over the weaknesses of conservation efforts towards ancient cultural heritage in Rakhine State as it is being smuggled off aboard.

“The ancient elephant statues in Mrauk U are being smuggled out of the country. People had chiselled out these enshrined relics and smuggled them off. One of the stolen ancient relics of Rakhine State surfaced in Yangon. The culprit, who had impersonated a monk, had already sent such precious objects to Thailand three or four times already. The majority of those reclaimed were ancient elephant statues of the Waitharli and Mrauk U dynasties. It’s inconsolable to think to what extent these ancient elephant statues have been lost.” expressed Daw Nu Mya San, deputy director of the Department of Archaeology and National Museum and owner of an archaeology museum.

Consecutive governments have stated how they have carried out conservation efforts to prevent ancient cultural heritage from disappearing through regional smuggling or from deterioration, but archaeologists criticise the weaknesses of the government from being able to effectively carry this out in reality.

“There’s a plethora of challenges facing conservation of ancient buildings. The city of Mrauk U was once South East Asia’s greatest fortified cantonment. Tenders were put out for restorations of areas of Mrauk U but a great deal of highly valued Rakhine cultural handiwork – found in pagodas, walls and brick walls – was destroyed as those carrying out the restorations were not archaeologists.” lamented Daw Khin Than, chairperson of the Mrauk U Ancient Cultural Heritage Conservation Group.

It is known that the regional Rakhine government supplied a budget of K600 million for conservation restorations to ancient sites during the 2015-16 fiscal year.

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