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A ceremonial unveiling of Rangoon’s first commemorative heritage plaque took place on Saturday at Rangoon City Hall where Mayor Hla Myint and the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT) hosted regional MPs, foreign diplomats and historians.
According to YHT director Thant Myint U, Yangon Heritage Trust will install blue heritage plaques at landmark buildings and homes of well-known persons to highlight their cultural and historical significance and their contribution to “the narrative of the city”.
“Yangon [Rangoon] is a city important not only for the history of Myanmar [Burma], but also the history of the world. It’s witnessed two Anglo-Burmese wars, the Second World War, British and Japanese occupation, a civil war, coups and uprisings,” he said. “It’s been home to Myanmar’s top leaders, thinkers, writers and artists, as well as internationally renowned figures from the last Mogul Emperor to Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda. It’s played host to icons from Mahatma Gandhi to Nikita Khrushchev. And it’s been home to millions of ordinary people from many different faiths and backgrounds. It’s a special city, a unique city, and all this is reflected in Yangon’s beautiful built heritage. This is what these plaques will recognise and celebrate. We hope it will help residents and visitors alike appreciate what is around them.”
Dutch electronics firm Royal Phillips has donated US$75,000 to the project.
Saturday’s plaque ceremony was attended by British Ambassador Andrew Patrick, who lauded the scheme. “We support YHTs campaign to preserve Yangon’s buildings, from whatever era,” he told DVB on Tuesday. “A city can be both economically vibrant and preserve its history – and a city that does that will be a better city. These plaques will help highlight that these buildings played a part in the life of the city – famous people lived there, or important events in history happened there. This is the most interesting city in the region, and I hope the people of the city are able to preserve that, while of course enjoying the benefits of economic growth.”
Central Rangoon is well known for its iconic colonial architecture, much of it built between 100 and 150 years ago under British rule. But recent economic developments in the country and demand for modern office and residential space have resulted in the demolition of many old buildings to make way for high rises.
A war of words broke out last year between those who want to retain the city’s heritage sites and those who want to make way for modern development who point to the fact that much of the colonial-era architecture is in a state of irreparable decay and woefully unsafe.