Novotel hotel project permitted to resume in Bagan
10 Sep 2018
The Ministry of Religious Affair and Culture has withdrawn charges filed against Myat Min Company, which is building a 348-room Novotel hotel at the Bagan Cultural Zone, U Ko Ko Naing, deputy director general of the ministry, told The Myanmar Times last week.
The development comes after the Department of Archaeology and National Museums in Bagan, which falls under the remit of the ministry, sued Myat Min Company in May for ignoring three warnings to cease construction of the hotel, which is taking place near the revered Saytaner Gyi and Kyaung Gyi Nyima pagodas. The department in March issued a directive stipulating that construction within the cultural zone is to take place only if permission is granted.
The ministry withdrew the charges last month. However, U Phyo Hla Wai, managing director of Myat Min Company, claimed his company was not privy to that information. “We didn’t know about the withdrawal of charges against our company by the ministry,” U Pho Hla Wai said.
“The Ministry of Religious Affair and Culture informed the company (Myat Min) when it sued the company as well as when it withdrew charges,” U Ko Ko Naing said.
As UNESCO will be conducting checks and investigations relating to Bagan’s listing as a World Heritage Site near the hotel site this month, Myat Min Company has promised not to resume construction during this period, U Ko Ko Naing said. “We will discuss a timeline on when development of the hotel should continue,” he said.
Construction of the Novotel-led hotel project in Bagan is slated to take place across 24.25 acres of land with permission from the Mandalay government, granted in October 2017. It is one out of seven other hotels planned in Myanmar by French hotelier Accorhotels.
According to a directive issued by the Nyaung U District General Administration Department on November 8, 2017, Myat Min Company has paid a total of K17.4 million, or K50,000 per room, for the right to build the hotel.
U Thu Ra Aung, secretary of Myanmar Archaeology Association told The Myanmar Times that the charges should not have been withdrawn as Myat Min Company has yet to conduct a Heritage Impact Assessment.
The association is planning to sue the Bagan Management Committee led by Mandalay chief minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung for mismanagement of the Bagan heritage site under the 1998 Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Regions Law. It will send a notice through a law firm to the Nyaung U district court this month.
According to the law, the construction, addition, renovation or extension to the boundaries of a building are illegal in Bagan Cultural Zone without the permission from the Ministry of Religious Affair and Culture.
“The government can do whatever they like in Bagan including allowing more hotels projects within the heritage zone but they need to amend the existing law on our national heritage first,” U Thu Ra Aung said.