A historic building in central Yangon had a last-minute reprieve this week when conservationists managed to stop its demolition with a media campaign that received the backing of the government.
The much-loved building at 233-235 Pansodan Street had been declared dangerous by Yangon City Development Committee, which had sent workers to tear it down.
The building, which was a hostel for Burmese writers, artists and politicians during the country’s colonial era, became the subject of a last-minute campaign by the Yangon Heritage Trust, which prompted government officials to order the postponement of the demolition.
“We heard that they halted the demolition after news spread through the media to higher authorities who ordered it to stop,” Moe Moe Lwin, the deputy chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust told a news website.
Only around 40 historic colonial building in downtown Yangon remain, and many have been declared restricted zones by the Yangon City Development Committee after falling into disrepair.
Activists want the former capital’s iconic colonial architecture maintained and preserved, and worry that the remaining colonial buildings will be torn down to make space for hotels to cater to the country’s booming tourism industry.
The Yangon Heritage Trust has highlighted the case of the Athor Ka Theatre, which has already been knocked down, and a modern replacement built instead.
The Myanmar Lawyers Network recently asked the government not to auction the 101-year-old Yangon High Court and Police Commissioner’s Office to a group of Chinese and local business interests who plan to turn the buildings into a restaurant and museum.
However a spokesman for the group said that they still have not received a reply from the government.
“The sentimental and historical value cannot be found anywhere else,” he said. “But our government does not appreciate the value of this old building.”
The Lawyers Network said that they will meet at the end of this month to discuss their next move.
To contact the reporter on this story: Rupert Winchester at [email protected]