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Will Suu Kyi put the kibosh on Bagan temples as sunset perches?

State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi inspects a temple undergoing renovation works in Bagan on Tuesday. (Photo: DVB)

On a tour of the ancient archaeological site Bagan on Tuesday, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi suggested that the long-held practice of scaling the major tourist attraction’s temples for sunrise and sunset views should be banned in future.

Speaking to Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture officials regarding repairs of temples in Bagan damaged by a major earthquake in central Burma last year, Suu Kyi said use of the Buddhist monuments as sightseeing spots for tourists should be prohibited.

“Bagan has such astounding sights of sunrise and sunset, like no other place I have seen. However, having tourists climbing on these temples for the views could harm the ancient heritage in the long term and it should be banned in the future,” she said.

The state counsellor said substitute viewing areas should be created for those looking to take in Bagan’s scenic vistas.

The state counsellor arrived in Bagan on Tuesday morning and spoke to the ministry officials at the Bagan Archaeological Museum. She also toured several damaged temples to observe the repair work undertaken at the sites.

Briefing Suu Kyi about the restoration effort, the director of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture said the ministry is also working to win UNESCO World Heritage status for the archaeological site. The prestigious designation was previously denied by the UN cultural agency due to shoddy restoration work carried out by the former State Peace and Development Council junta in the mid-’90s, when some temples were completely rebuilt from ruins.

“We are making preparations to bid for Bagan to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site by 2018 and hope to achieve the status before 2020, the end of this government’s term,” said the director.

More than 300 temples sustained significant damage in the August 2016 earthquake.