Arakan’s Danyawady and Vesali recognized as official archaeological sites

Mrauk U: The Burmese ministry of culture has reportedly included the ancient cities of Danyawady and Vesali in Arakan State in its official recognition of five more sites in the country as official archaeological sites.

The official Burmese language newspaper, Kyemone, reported in its publication on 10th May that the cultural ministry has zoned and recognized those five ancient sites in the country as “Ancient Site Zone” and “Protected and Preserved Zone”with effect on 9th May 2012.

The five sites include Danyawady Ancient City in Kyauktaw Township and Vesali Ancient City in Mrauk-U Township in Arakan State, Myaungmya Ancient City in Myaungmya Township in Irrawaddy Division, Thargaya Ancient City in Launglone Township in Taninthari Division and Amyintywa and Thonepanhla (Anitywa) Region in Chaung-Oo Township in Sagaing Division.

The cultural ministry stated that it would preserve and protect the ancient cultural heritages in those zones with the enacted laws.

“It is good to have taken these steps for these ancient heritages. Mrauk-U was recognized in 2009 and now Danyawady and Vesali are also recognized as official archaeological sites. We welcome these steps taken by the government for our cultural heritage sites”, said U Kyaw Tun Aung, a retired Archaeologist and Curator of the Ancient Cultural Museum in Mrauk-U.

He said the ancient cultural heritages in those sites would be preserved and protected by the state following the recognitions.

“Danyawady and Vesali are the earliest cities in Arakanese history. The Danyawady is the oldest because it was founded in 3325 BCE. Now the state has recognized them as ancient site zones in order to ensure the protection and preservation of them”, he said.

The Vesali City Site is situated between the Waetharli and Thanlarwady Villages in Mrauk-U Township and the Danyawady City Site is situated near the Maharmuni Village in Kyauktaw Township.

It is said in the newspaper that the creation of a land plot, construction of road, digging of irrigations and ponds, setting up lampposts and antennas and mining are not allowed on the ancient zones recognized by the cultural ministry.

Such activities on the zones are restricted by the Cultural Heritage Protection Law enacted in 1998, and any violations of the law will be prosecuted, said the newspapers citing the cultural ministry.

Narinjara has contacted to the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library in Mrauk-U over telephone regarding to the official recognition of ancient zones in the area, but the phone calls were not answered by the department.

Bangladesh Government says Burma wants to share Bangladesh’s submarine cable

Burma, presently known as Myanmar, wants to share Bangladesh’s submarine cable to upgrade its countries cable networks, said Bangladesh’s high authority.

 “It is on a payment basis by Burma if Bangladesh agrees to share it’s submarine cable with Burma,” said Raziuddin Ahmed Raju, minister of Telecommunication, on Sunday in a seminar held in Dhaka titled ‘Submarine Cable Connecting Ocean Going Countries Economic Maritime Boundary.

According to a local Bangladesh news agency, Burma has invited the minister of Bangladesh telecommunication to Burma to discuss the issue.

“A minister of Burma has invited me to visit the neighboring country Burma to discuss the matter,” the minister told the seminar in Dhaka organized by the Engineers Institution, Bangladesh (IEB).

The minister said the existing submarine cable in Burma is not adequate to serve its demand. “That’s why they expressed their interest in using Bangladesh’s submarine cable.”

He, however, did not make it clear whether Bangladesh would allow Burma to use it.

The minister also said the government would launch the much-hyped 3G mobile phone in July or August, while the 4G mobile service would go ahead in December this year.

According  to Bangladesh officials,9 million people in Bangladesh are using an internet service while the global users of internet are 2.5 billion. 58.5 percent (86.5 million) people of the country are now using mobile phone, while global users 5.6 billion people or 80 percent.


Farmers Still Oppressed, Despite New Government

Rathidaung: A farmer from Nipukhan Vilage in Rathidaung Township, who is going to court for alleged trespassing, said that farmers are still being oppressed despite the new government.

“About 26 farmers are being sued for allegedly trespassing on his land by U Saw Aung Thein, a crony backed by the military. The farmers took to the land after the new government was sworn in because they believed that the land would be given back to them as it was confiscated from them during the military government. Now a court case has been brought against them and the farmers are so disappointed as even the military did not sue them for any other reasons,” one of those 26 farmers from Nipukhan Village told Narinjara on the condition of anonymity on 6 May, 2012.

“We 26 farmers are from villages called Nipukhan, Kaung Ree Chaung, Kyung Chaung, and Paung Sar on the bank of the Mayu in Rathidaung Township. What happened is this: The military confiscated our land of about 1800 acres in 1996 with the pretext that it falls within a wild area. We have been farming this land a long time, since the introduction of land possession after first cultivation. When the new government came in, we appealed that these lands belong to us and should be redistributed back to us. The government explained that only 780 acres were confiscated from us. The rest of the land was not included, but when we stepped foot on that land, we were sued for trespassing, stealing shrimp, and intending to destroy other people’s property. Thats why we are going to court as defendants,” the farmer said.

An educated youth from Rathidaung, who is helping with the case, reported that when the land was confiscated, farmers were tortured by being tied up with ropes when they refused to release their land.

“Some corrupt officers from the military and U Saw Aung Thein were cooperating for their own benefit with the support of the military. The military in fact took away 750 acres by force, and the military lent the land to U Saw Aung Thein. And then he took over more land by saying the extra land belonged to the military. He was able to do this by giving bribes to the military. The total land grab extended to 1800 acres and Saw Aung Thein has been exploiting this land for his own benefit. Some farmers who did not want to give up their land were taken and tortured. Since then, he has been using this land,” the youth said.

A farmer also said that Saw Aung Thein has bribed the judge to prolong the case.

“The court case was instigated on 9 March. We have been to the court 6 times but no defendants have been asked any questions yet in the court. The court is only asking questions on the testimonies from the plaintiff. Out of 16 testimonies, only 6 have been investigated and the court case is moving so slow. We believe that U Saw Aung Thein is planning this way to make the farmers jobless during the court case. Sometimes, we go to the court but because the plaintiff doesn’t show up we have to return home,” they said.

The 26 farmers have to travel to the court by boat from their villages and every trip costs them dearly. One trip costs 1,000 kyat and after the court hearing, the farmers cannot go back to their villages and have to stay in Rathidaung for the night, and it costs them more for food and accommodation in the town.

“We have so many difficulties coming to the court. We just want to urge the judge to send us to jail. We do not want to spend the time and money coming to court several times. Otherwise, the judge should finish the case as quickly as possible,” the farmer added.

The latest news reports reveal that other businessmen who are associated with the military are also suing some 19 other farmers in the same region. This is the first time that such groups of farmers have been brought to court over land issues.

Burmese president to visit Bangladesh next month

Dhaka: The President of Burma U Thein Sein will visit Bangladesh in June, said the Burmese envoy to Bangladesh U Mai Lwin yesterday.

Outgoing Burmese Ambassador U Min Lwin announced this when he met Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman at Bangabhaban, the presidential place, in Dhaka.

The Bangladesh news agency UNB reported that Burmese envoy U Min Lwin made a farewell courtesy call to Bangladesh’s president yesterday before leaving for Burma after  the completion of his tenure.

During the meeting, the Burmese envoy said the relations between the two countries have improved greatly after the recent visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Burma.

Outgoing Burma  Ambassador U Min Lwin on Tuesday said the solution to the maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and Burma is a win-win situation for both the countries, the report of UNB said.

U Min Lwin also told the Bangladesh president in the meeting that  the people of both the countries are happy that the maritime boundary dispute between Myanmar and Bangladesh has been resolved with the judgment given by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Bngladesh President Zillur said Burma is the neighbor and close friend of Bangladesh and the two countries are enjoying excellent relations.

The President also expressed his appreciation in the meeting that the government and the people of Burma are establishing democracy in the country, said Bangladesh officials.

Zillur Rahman also emphasised the need for increasing trade and commerce among the countries of the region by developing rail and road connectivity among Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. “Road and rail links are essential for the countries in order to boost trade and commerce, said the report.

Bangladesh President Zillur thanked the outgoing envoy of Burma and wished him success in his next assignment. U Min Lwin served as Burma’s chief envoy to Bangladesh for two years from 2010.


Villagers complain of a case of attempted rape on minor girl to CM

Sittwe: The villagers of Daungpraukkay Village in Sittwe Township in Arakan State have lodged a written complaint to the Chief Minister on 2nd of May, as the local authorities have taken no action against an offender who attempted to rape a minor girl from their village.

“It has been nearly a month since the crime, but the local police have not taken any action against him yet and we have reported the case in a written letter to the CM. We have written about the situation in our villages in the letter as well”, said a villager.

The offender is identified as 19 year old Sauribya, a Muslim youth and son of U Sudin, from Ngaprungree Village in the area. He allegedly attempted to rape a 12 year old girl from Daungpraukkay Village around 6 pm on 12th of April on her way back home together with two other children after buying some sugar from a shop in his village.

“He [offender] ran away when we rushed to the spot after hearing the children screaming. But he left the girl in torn clothes and with bruises on her body. She was very frightened and we felt a lot of sympathy for her”, said the villager.

There are only 18 households in Daungpraukkay Village and there is no shop or market in the village. The villagers have to shop for their groceries from the nearby Ngaprungree Village which holds 400 households.

When Narinjara contacted the No. 1 Police Station in Sittwe, a police officer on duty said, “The case has already been filed in our station, but I have no authority to speak on the case. There are investigators for the case and they know about the case.”

When asked for the contact phone number of the investigators, the police cut the phone connection telling us that they have no phone.

“The police are still looking for him but have not found him yet. They have also done investigations of his parents and neighbors in the village. The villagers here are saying that he has already fled to Bangladesh”, said an elder from the area.

The villager said they have also mentioned the former crimes committed by gangs of Muslims from Ngaprungree Village on the nearby villagers, which include the killing of a pregnant woman after being gang-raped.

Sellers March to Prime Minister’s House for Reduced Market Taxes

Sittwe: Around 60 sellers from Nazi Market in Sittwe marched to Prime Minister U Hla Maung Tin’s house on Sunday morning and demanded he address the problems they are facing.

“We are facing several problems, the main problem is the high market levy. A room of eight square feet is levied at 1,000 kyats a day. A trishaw carrying a bag is taxed 1,000 kyats if it enters the market. A mont-dee shop (a traditional Arakanese noodle shop) has to pay 700 kyats, a sticky rice shop 500 kyats, and at worst, cross-passing in front of the market tax collector’s house costs some money. Failing to comply with the tax collection results in being threatened by thugs. We can not bear it anymore and so, we are marching to the Prime Minister’s house to ask him to solve our problems. We have about 60 people,” a group leader said.

Even though they marched to the Prime Minister’s house, they did not get a chance to meet with him, so they again marched to the Municipal Office.

“Because we could not meet the PM, we continued to the Municipal Office, where we met the Minister of the Municipality, Deputy Director, and the State Municipal Officer. They confirmed that they will solve our problems. We were given a second appointment for 20 of us this morning. If found guilty, the market tax license will be withdrawn from the collectors,” he added.

The sellers from the markets had already submitted their complaint to the authority with evidence such as videotape and documents, but they received no response. That is why the decided to march to the PM’s house.

“Our profits are ripped off by the high tax every single day and we are left with nothing. Even buyers are levied with unofficial taxes every time they come to the markets and finally our market does not get any customers any more. Our business has been affected so much with this unfair tax. We have lodged the compliant with the authority but no one paid attention. That’s why we are asking the PM to intervene,” he said.

An MP from Sittwe, U Aung Mra Kyaw, gave comments regarding this issue.

“The tax collector U Khin Maung Hla, aka Saw Lain, has been bullying people since the time of the military intelligence and he has not stopped his practice. We received several complaints about him. We have informed the state government about the issue as there might arise unnecessary problems with respect to this case,” he said.

U Khine Maung Hla is reportedly imposing high taxes on the Nazi Market as well as another small market near primary school no. 3 in Factory Group Quarter, on Aye Thar Yar Road. This small market is about 1,500 feet away from Nazi Market and it is meant for the poorest people who can not afford much.

All across Arakan State, people from the time of the old military intelligence have been exploiting people by imposing heavy duties because they are close to the military and they hold market, fishing, and shrimp farm operation licenses. The march to the PM’s house was the first demonstration of this kind to demand a reduction from heavy taxes in Arakan State.


Burmese Navy orders shooting of any person on its confiscated lands

Kyauk Pru: The Danyawady Naval Regional Command Headquarters has passed an order to shoot and arrest any people or cattle, who or which traverses its confiscated lands in Kalantae Village Group in Kyaukpru Township in western Burma’s Arakan State, said local villagers.

The regional naval headquarters is based in Thitpoketaung in Kyaukpru Township and is said to have forcibly confiscated nearly 100 acres of common grazing lands in Kalantae Village Group in the township since ten years back, and now is imposing tight restrictions on the movement across those lands.

“The lands were the common grazing grounds called Ahtaktaw Grazing Grounds in our Kalantae Village Group. They were forcibly confiscated by the Danyawady Naval Station ten years ago, and now some of them are being fenced and cultivating peanuts while the other fertile ones are used for growing cashew trees. As the [political] situation is developing in the country at present, the villagers have demanded the return of those lands, and the naval force has imposed these restrictions on the villagers”, said a village elder on condition of anonymity.

The elder said the villagers are now facing more trouble with the naval restrictions as they have been suffering from shortage of grazing grounds for their cattle since their common grounds were forcibly confiscated by the navy.

“We used to feed our cattle in those grazing grounds before the confiscation by the naval force. Even after the confiscation, we were allowed to herd our cattle in those grounds. Now no villager or cattle are allowed to even cross through those grounds and the restriction has caused a great trouble to all of us because the cattle are necessary to us and there is now no ground to raise and herd our cattle around our village group”, said the elder.

He said that the villagers are also troubled with their travels from one village to another in the group as their crossing through those grazing lands has been restricted by the navy as well.

A youth from the village group also said there are now so many problems being perpetuated and created by the naval and other armed forces besides the forcible land confiscations and arbitrary restrictions in their villages.

“While the villagers are unhappy with the confiscation of their lands and restrictions by the naval force, the soldiers are coming into our villages and are commiting sexual harassments on the women. Dissatisfaction with the armed forces isow growing amongst the young men in our villages because they are doing whatever they like in our villages because they are from the armed forces. Our elders have already complained of them to their higher authorities to avoid problems with them, but the authorities have not taken any action to control them yet”, said the youth.

It is learnt that the Danyawady Naval Regional Command Headquarters has also confiscated about 400 acres of farmlands that were owned by the 43 farmers in Sitetaw Village in Kyaukpru Township on the guise of building a naval base, but have been leasing the lands back to the farmers for a rent of paddy 12 baskets per acre in a year.

Two Arakanese villagers hospitalized after being hacked by a group of Muslims in Maungdaw

Maungdaw: Two Arakanese villagers from Maungdaw Township in western Burma’s Arakan State have been hospitalized after they were attacked by a group of Muslims outside their village nearly a week ago, said local and a police report.

Maungdaw gate

The victims are identified as U Aung Kyaw Hla (54), son of U Chin Ree, and U Ah Ni Maung (42), son of U Thein Tun. Both of them are residents of Kinchaung Village in Maungdaw Township.

“The two of them are now undergoing emergency medical treatment in the hospital as they had sustained serious injuries from the recent violent attacks by a group of Bengali Muslims”, said a relative of the victims.

The relative said the incident happened after four Muslim men came to their village under the guise of buying bulls from the villagers.

“The incident happened around 12 pm on 30th April. Just before the attack on them, four  Muslim men came into our village. When they were asked, they told us that they were from Gawduthara Village and had come to buy some bulls from our village. As we had no bulls to sell to them and suspected them on account of their appearance and character, we told them to go away from our village. As we still felt unsafe with those men, we sent two of our men to follow and ensure if they really went away. But those men and others armed with rods and machetes were waiting just outside the village and beat and hacked them. That’s why they sustained such serious injuries”, he said.

He said the assailants ran away from the village after the authorities came to the village.

“No assailant was found in the village and it is learnt that they have already fled to Bangladesh. The Muslim usually have done this after committing crimes here. The authorities are still looking for them, but no one has been caught yet”, he added.

When Narinjara contacted the Maungdaw hospital they said the victims are still in the hospital and their situation is improving.

The police station in Maungdaw also confirmed the incident and said they are still looking for the assailants.

Mrauk-U One of the Most Endangered Heritage Sites in Asia: Global Heritage Fund Reports

Mrauk-U, the ancient capital city in northeastern Arakan State in Burma, is one of the most endangered cultural heritage sites in Asia, according to a report of the Global Heritage Fund.

An ancient Amyaint Taung fortress in Mrauk U destroyed by Bulldozer for railway

In its report titled “Asia’s Heritage in Peril: Saving Our Vanishing Heritage” that was released on 3 May, Global Heritage Fund has listed Mrauk-U, “Capital City of the First Arakanese Kingdom”, in its highlights of the ten most significant archaeological and heritage sites facing irreparable loss and destruction in Asia.

The report said those sites are being threatened by five accelerating man-made threats, including development pressure, unsustainable tourism, insufficient management, looting, and war and conflict.

The other sites listed in the report are Ayutthaya, the former Siamese capital in Thailand; Fort Santiago and Intramuros, the historic fortress in the Philippines; Kashgar, one the last intact silk road cities in China; Mahasthangarh, one of South Asia’s earliest urban archaeological sites in Bangladesh; Mes Aynak, an ancient Buddhist monastery complex on the Silk Road in Afghanistan; Plain of Jars, megalithic archaeological landscape with mysterious origins in Laos; Preah Vihear, picturesque masterpiece of Khmer architecture in Cambodia; Rakhigari, one of the largest and oldest Indus sites in the world in India; and Taxila, former crossroads of industry in the ancient Middle East in Pakistan.

When asked about the report and identification of Mrauk-U as one of the most endangered sites, U Kyaw Tun Aung, a retired archaeologist as well as a resident of Mrauk-U, made the following comments:

“The construction of the railroad through the main archaeological zone in Mrauk-U has destroyed many cultural and historic heritage in the city. The earthen city walls have been bulldozed for the earth to be in-fill in highway construction near the city. There are also big hotels being built within the zone and any well-wishers are allowed to restore or renovate the ancient pagodas or religious structures with in the zone as they like without regard for the original design of the structures. What is the ugliest is the bus stations are allowed to build within the palace site in the city. The destruction of archaeological heritage is increasing without an prevention or preservation because anyone can do whatever they wish in the city. That is why the city has become the most endangered site,” said U Kyaw Tun Aung.

He said many valuable heritage sites, including city walls and pagodas in the ancient cities of Danyawady and Vesali were also damaged as the railroad to connect Sittwe and Ann was constructed to cross through the middle of those cities last year.

U Tun Aung Kyaw also said that the cultural heritage in Mrauk-U is historically very important not only for the Arakanese but also for people around the world. “There are four prominent periods that began from 3325 BCE that are known as Danyawady, Vesali, Laymro, and Mrauk-U. All civilizations in the former periods converged in the Mrauk-U period and Mrauk-U emerged as the golden city with the vast stone-sculptured architecture that includes magnificent Buddha statues, stupas, and pagodas. Now Mrauk-U offers some of the richest archaeological sites in the world and it is very significant not only for the Arakanese but also people around the world,” said U Kyaw Tun Aung.

Mrauk-U, the last capital of the independent Arakanese kingdom, was founded by King Monn Saw Mon in 1430 CE. It was stable for over 300 years and it is now an ancient city rich in historical heritage.

U Kyaw Tun Aung, however, said that heritage has been destroyed by natural disasters as well as the lack of systematic preservation and maintenance.

An ancient corridor in Mrauk U is totally damaged for railway

“There are still great weaknesses in the preservation and maintenance of our ancient historical heritage. That is why the ancient historic and cultural monuments have been ruined by natural disasters such as earthquakes, storms, and heavy rain. For example, the Shwegutaung Pagoda, the Barbutaung Pagoda, and Haritaung Pagoda collapsed during heavy rains. And there are also so many monuments being destroyed by creepers like the banyan trees,” he said.

When asked how the archaeological department is working to prevent the damages of ancient cultural heritage sites, U Kyaw Tun Aung said, “When I was serving in the archeological department, there was yearly distribution of funds, but as the funds were so small and there were so many monuments, no preservation work could be properly done.”

To the question of how Mrauk-U could still be saved, he said, “There are archaeological zones recognized by the national government in Mrauk-U. Those zones should be protected exactly in line with the laws. There is also a need for systematic and scientific preservation of the heritage sites. It is also important to preserve the original design and structure while restoring or repairing damaged or deteriorating heritage sites. And then Mrauk-U will reach a curable situation from being endangered.”

There is widespread criticism among the local people that the successive Burmese regimes have not only abandoned the ancient cities of Arakan, including Mrauk-U, Danyawady, and Vesali without preservation, but extensively destroyed those city sites by constructing railroads and highway crossings through them under the guise of regional development.

Burmese MPs on Study Tour to German Parliament

Dhaka: A delegation of Burmese members of parliament left for Germany on 5 May to study the country’s parliament.

Dr. Aye Maung, Chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party and one of the MPs in the delegation, told Narinjara before his departure that his delegation was invited by the German parliament to observe its procedures.

“We are visiting Germany on the invitation of the upper and lower houses of their parliament. The German parliament will be convened from the 7th to the 11th this month and we will be able to study practically the whole session of their parliament – how it is convened and how the MPs work in it, etc,” said Dr. Aye Maung.

U Sai Aik Paung, Chairman of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, representatives from the people’s parliament U Win Oo, U Win Than, and U Aye Mauk from the Union Solidarity and Development Party, and U Min Oo and Dr. Hla Myat Thwe from the National League for Democracy are reportedly among the delegation sent to Germany.

“We hope that we will have some gains from our study because Germany is now a country at the forefront of democracy in Europe. And it can be beneficial to us because we have to study how we can impart our experiences of the performances of the German parliament and its government in developing our politics to federalism,” said Dr. Aye Maung.

The delegation to Germany is said to be part of three separate delegations led by the Speaker of the People’s Parliament Thura Shwe Mann on the tour to study the parliaments in Germany, Belgium, and Norway from 5 to 18 May.

It was also learnt that a female parliamentary delegation, including Daw Khin Saw Wai from the RNDP and Daw Mi Myint Than from the All Mon Region Democracy Party will make their respective study tour to Norway from 13 to 18 May as well.