Myanmar Government Restricts Bagan to Travellers Following Earthquake

The 6.8 magnitude earthquake near Bagan- one of the most powerful in recent years- created more damage than earlier expected. On Monday, according to Myanmar Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs, the total inventory of damages pagodas and stupas now reaches 397, doubling earlier estimation.

Due to the danger that represent now many pagodas shaken by the earthquake and due to the damage of prevcious monuments, the Ministry of Culture decided to close down some of the pagodas to visitors. U Thein Lwin, deputy director general of the department, told on Sunday to The Myanmar Times that 33 pagodas are now close to the public. This includes the popular Pyathatgyi, Shwesandaw, Htilominlo and Sulamani pagodas.

Visitors are also not allowed to climb to the upper levels of those pagodas for sunrise and sunset viewing. “We have set the prohibition period for one year. We will allow visitors to enter and climb the pagodas again after the renovation period,” said U Thein Lwin to the newspaper.

Restoration is likely to last at least for one year with the government seeking the support of international institutions such as UNESCO for expertise.

The ministry also released a list of damaged pagodas in areas outside of Bagan, including 35 in Salay in Magwe Region, five in Mrauk-U in Rakhine State and 13 in Sagaing Region.

however, the newspaper reported that the tourism trade does not fear of a slowdown in interest for Bagan and its amazing archaelogical site. Some tour operators even talk about an increase in interest from international travellers who want to support the reconstruction by visiting the damaged areas. Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw also declared last week that there were still many undamaged pagodas to visit in the area.

The earthquake fortunately claimed a limited number of victims. Three people were killed and five injured according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement said. The Bagan region has been secured with some 200 police men and 250 military troops watching the area to avoid looting of archaeological treasures.