ASEAN Chair - Myanmar took over as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on October 10 during a two day summit in Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan . This will be the first time Myanmar has assumed the leadership role of the ASEAN regional bloc. Myanmar, which became an ASEAN member in 1997, has had to wait the longest to serve as chair which alternates among the 10 Southeast Asian member states each year. The ASEAN bloc of nations was formed on 8 August 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Since then, membership has expanded to include Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Only when Myanmar began a series political and economic reforms in 2011 did ASEAN leaders decide to allow Myanmar a chance to chair the association in 2014. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the chairmanship was a “good opportunity” for Myanmar to build on its socio-economic progress and democratic transition. In his acceptance speech President Thein Sein said that Myanmar would focus on climate change, natural disaster management, security, transnational crime, food and energy security, small-and-medium enterprises and human rights issues. He also said that priority would be given to the establishment of an ASEAN Community in accord with the national objectives of each country.
More doctors - Myanmar’s government has removed more than 1,000 Myanmar doctors from a blacklist that stripped them of their medical licenses and prevented many who lived abroad from returning home in an attempt to overhaul its long-neglected health care system and address a major shortage of doctors. Of those removed from the list, about 10% were sanctioned early in their careers, after graduating with bachelor’s degrees in medicine and surgery, because they refused to move out to rural areas where they had been posted to work, or because they decided to take leave without permission. Some doctors never returned after traveling to the United Kingdom, Singapore and other countries for training or medical workshops, while others were allegedly involved in cases of hospital mismanagement or corruption. Those who were removed from the blacklist will be able to reapply for their licenses through the Myanmar Medical Council, which is under the Ministry of Health. Doctors are in extremely short supply in Myanmar, where the former military regime neglected the health care system for decades. The current government, which came to power in 2011, has allocated a bigger share of funds for health, but health care spending still accounts for only about 3 percent of the national budget. Among the leaders of the health care reform effort is Dr. Tin Myo Win, the personal physician of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The doctor, who is developing the national health policy for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, says many doctors moved abroad during military rule, and he is urging them to return now.
Military under fire - The Myanmar military hierarchy is interested in economic reforms, not democratic reforms, because it enables them to “profit enormously” from land and natural resources, a large group of NGOs said in a statement to three Western governments. The NGOs, representing 15 ethnic communities in Myanmar, have urged the US, British and Australian governments to reconsider plans to work with the Burmese military and provide human rights training among other aid. “The Burmese military does not commit human rights abuses accidentally, out of ignorance. The military leadership orders their officers and soldiers to violate human rights in order to control property and resources,” said the statement issued via the Burma Campaign UK group. “The main reforms in which the military is interested are economic reforms, not democratic reforms. This prioritization greatly benefits the military leadership, whose large economic interests and holdings ensure they profit enormously from seizing our land and resources, said the statement sent to US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The UK Ambassador speaks - British investment in Myanmar is on the rise, but problems on the ground in the Southeast Asian frontier market have some investors reluctant to commit, according to UK Ambassador to Myanmar, Andrew Patrick. Patrick said that even though Myanmar’s transition to democracy remained incomplete, UK business interest in Myanmar was growing. “We’re encouraging investment here,” he said. “We think that investment is important to create jobs—Western countries bring the technology, skills. They will help improve businesses to an international standard.” However, he acknowledged that challenges to internal stability were giving reason for pause among some Britons. “British companies are coming here, but of course, yes, when you see the incidents in Kachin, Rakhine [Arakan] recently, and bomb blasts too, it has an effect for the business sector,” he said. More than 10 British businesses’ delegations are on average meeting with their Burmese counterparts per month, Patrick said, adding that the UK-based luxury car company Jaguar-Land Rover plans to open a showroom in Yangon early next year. Last month 14 companies sent scouts to Myanmar, including firms in the construction sector. But UK businesses, and most other prospective Western investors, consider the country’s economic potential to be intimately tied to its political situation. “My sense is that international companies are seeing the same opportunities and have similar concerns about the country. I don’t think UK companies are more reluctant than Japanese and US companies, I think British companies will be coming here,” he said. One factor deterring foreign investors was the high and rising property prices in Yangon, which have sent commercial rates skyrocketing over the last two years. UK exports to Myanmar rose 113 percent to US$12.8 million in 2012, and 178 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same period last year, according to the UK government. According to the figure of the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development and the United Nation Economic and Social Commission for the Asia and Pacific, cumulative UK investment in Myanmar reached nearly $2.8 billion from 1989 to 2012. That compares with $14 billion into the country over the same period from Myanmar’s main investor, China. He added that the UK government is encouraging the Burmese government to complete the democratization process by amending the Constitution. “It can’t say it has completed the democratization process without amending the Constitution, as the  elections will not be free and fair,” he said.
Trouble at The Sunlight newspaper - In what came across as an arm twisting incident by a group of influential people, including relatives of Myanmar government ministers, a group of men muscled their way into the newsroom of The Sunlight in Yagon and confiscated 14 computers and remaining journals. Moe Hein, chief editor of The Sunlight news journal, told the press yesterday that the journal's publisher Yu Naing, retired Senior General Than Shwe's grandson Phoe La Pyae, and Minister of Commerce's son Thurein were among the group that confiscated the computers and journals. He said they were accompanied by the news outlet's publisher, Yu Naing, who appeared helpless and remained outside the building as the group of men prowled through the newsroom and frightened the staff along the way. " They covered the CCTV after turning off the lights and took away the systems units from the computers. They took 14 out of 22 computers," said Moe Hein. He believes the incident took place due to two articles in Friday's issue of the journal that criticised Phoe La Pyae, Miss Universe Myanmar beauty pageant, and the children of the country's elites who the publication accused of having tendency to take advantage of people. "The author Sitthuye Bala Min Htin wrote 'Moonlight over Moscow' which is about the Miss Universe beauty pageant, cronies, and car races. Another author, Htaung Thuye Ba Oak, wrote 'Everything will go ablaze with a hoof beat of a horse, ' which is about how the children of the authority continued to take advantages over the public from 1962 to present days. We only urged them to stop doing those acts. It was not a personal attack," said Moe Hein.
Speaking about the Constitution - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday said the 2015 elections in her country will not be democratic without constitutional changes. "The constitution must be amended," she said when she met European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels. "If the constitution is not amended, the 2015 election cannot be free or fair." Myanmar will hold parliamentary polls in 2015, with the new parliament then choosing a president and Suu Kyi has said she wants to run for the presidency. The current Myanmar constitution, crafted under the former military regime, blocks Suu Kyi from becoming president as it excludes anyone whose spouses or children are foreign nationals from holding the post. Suu Kyi's two sons are British nationals through their father, the late scholar Michael Aris. Barroso said the 2015 elections "must be credible, transparent and inclusive." Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest under military rule in Myanmar, before she was freed after controversial elections in 2010. She is meeting European leaders before heading to Luxembourg to pick up the European Union's main human rights prize that she won 23 years ago. At a ceremony at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Suu Kyi will finally receive the Sakharov prize she won in 1990 at the height of the Myanmar military crackdown.
In the blood - The presence of Aung San Suu Kyi at Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where she met with cadets and delivered a speech last Friday, surprised many activists at home and abroad. The visit has come under fire from some quarters, wondering why the civilian parliamentarian, who for nearly two decades was placed under house arrest by her own country’s armed forces, would prioritize this stop on her latest European tour. The answer may lie in Suu Kyi’s complicated relationship with the Generals back home. Could it be that Suu Kyi’s visit to Sandhurst—which once received and trained several Burmese military officers—was an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the generals in Naypyidaw? Just before Suu Kyi arrived in London on her second visit to Europe in a year, Britain was finalizing the details of a military assistance program that will see 30 high-ranking officers in the Myanmar Army receive specially tailored training, including instruction on how to operate within the rule of law. Suu Kyi, it just so happens, was the one who asked Britain to provide education to security forces in Myanmar. The backdrop to the tricky balance that human rights-conscious Western nations must strike is China. Min Aung Hlaing recently paid a visit to Myanmar’s at times overbearing neighbor to the north, where he received red carpet treatment and met Chinese President Xi Jinping. Since the late 1980s, China has been a reliable arms supplier to Myanmar, providing military hardware at a time when much of the rest of the world would have nothing to do with the oppressive regime. Western governments’ engagement with Myanmar’s armed forces will be cautious and gradual, but they also don’t want to see the Burmese generals slipping back into China’s sphere of influence. During Suu Kyi’s visit to London, UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said, “The focus of our future defense engagement with Myanmar will be on the creation of modern armed forces, subject to democratic accountability and compliance with international law. “I am delighted to see that Aung San Suu Kyi has chosen to look at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as an example of how to train professional soldiers to cope with the many challenges we face in the modern world.”
The rift widens - A spokesman for President Thein Sein has rejected remarks by USDP Chairman Shwe Mann, saying that Thein Sein would not run for another term in office in Myanmar’s 2015 elections. The public disagreement is the latest sign of an apparent rift within the USDP leadership. Senior members of the party offered different opinions on the significance of the disagreement, with one USDP member suggesting that Thein Sein could form a breakaway political party ahead of the elections if the USDP refuses to let him run. Shwe Mann, chairman of the ruling Union, Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and Union Parliament Speaker, told a press conference in Naypyidaw, “President Thein Sein has told me he will not run for president. I think he meant what he said. He is not running in the election.” Shwe Mann has made no secret of his ambition to become Myanmar’s next president. In another headline-grabbing comment, the USDP chair cryptically mentioned that retired military dictator Than Shwe was “concerned” about the current political situation. President’s Office spokesman Ye Htut said in a reaction that the USDP chairman was wrong to make public remarks about Thein Sein’s future. “I don’t understand why Shwe Mann expresses his opinion like that,” he said. “But the president makes this decision himself and will announce his decision to the public directly. We don’t need another source for this information.” Thein Sein and Shwe Mann are both former military regime generals and members of the military-backed USDP. Thein Sein, 68, was handpicked by Than Shwe to become president of the nominally civilian government in 2011. Shwe Mann, 66, was the third most powerful general in the former junta; he became Lower House speaker in 2011 and USDP chairman in May 2013.
Central Bank’s powers diminished - The newly reformed Myanmar Central Bank will not control financial institutions other than banks. “The Central Bank will not control non-banking financial institutions. Those institutions will be controlled by the Ministry of Finance,” said Khin Saw Oo, the bank’s vice governor. The independent Central Bank will administer 22 state-owned and private banks in Myanmar to maintain the country’s financial stability, but micro-finance institutions will be kept under the control of the Ministry of Finance. Myanmar took a long time to draw up the new Central Bank Law, as the government and parliament had to negotiate on more than 200 points regarding it. The Myanmar Central Bank, which is facing challenges integrating regional and international practices, continues to reform the country’s fiscal policies. The bank has two main objectives: to promote efficient payment mechanisms, ensuring liquidity, solvency, and proper functioning of the financial system, and to foster monetary, credit and financial conditions conducive to sustainable economic development. Economists have called for an official system to monitor changes in international financial markets, as well as to evaluate the investment flows, in order to develop sound fiscal policies for economic and financial stability.
Daily newspapers struggling - Six months after private daily newspapers stepped into Myanmar’s media market, publishers are still struggling to make a profit. While some in the business see a hopeful future, the dominance of state-run media and a lack of advertising interest mean some titles have already dropped out. Earlier this year, more than 26 private companies got licenses to print daily newspapers, with the first coming out in April. Burmese could read independent, uncensored newspapers each morning for the first time in 50 years, marking a major milestone in the country’s ongoing reforms. The first papers to launch—theVoice, theUnion, theStandardTimes and ShweNaingnganThit—have since been joined by the 7 Day Daily, the Daily Eleven, the Yangon Times, Mizzima, Pyi Myanmar and the Messenger. The English-language Myanma Freedom Daily is also now publishing alongside the 10 Burmese-language titles. But there have been setbacks. Three titles—The Empire, Myanmar Newsweek and Myanmar Age—have launched and already stopped publishing in the difficult market. From their infancy, private dailies faced financial problems. Simply producing and printing the mostly color pages of a daily is losing publishers an estimated $2,000 to $3,000 per day, according people in the industry. “There were 13 private dailies three months ago, now only 10 are left in the market,” said Saw Lin Aung, a market researcher on Myanmar’s print media. He said that advertisers, which will be the key to daily newspapers surviving, have been slow to warm to the daily format. “There are only two dailies that are getting ads and readers are regularly reading only these two dailies—the Daily Eleven and 7 Day Daily,” Saw Lin Aung said. “The highest circulation rate is about 50,000 copies per day.” Ahr Mahn, the editor of 7 Day Daily, said there were signs the market was improving, with more advertisers coming in. “This is peak season, and ads are increasing compared to last month. That means, some days a week, we can cover our daily costs, but some days we still can’t match the daily cost,” he said. “I can say if a daily newspaper reached to 70,000 copies per day, they can survive and they can make profit.” Ko Ko, the founder and CEO of the Yangon Times, which has both a daily and a weekly, said a major obstacle for private dailies remains their state-owned competitors. “Our main competitors are the two government-run newspapers—the Mirror and the New Light of Myanmar—they can sell at a cheap price, just 50 kyat, while we’re selling at 200 kyat per copy,” he said. The state-owned titles have large newsgathering and distribution networks, with more than 200,000 copies of both Burmese-language titles printed every day. “For example, while we’re trying hard to make 1 million kyat [about $1,000] from advertisements, they’re receiving more than 10 million kyat [$10,000] every day,” said Ko Ko, who also pointed to the government papers’ privileged access to important information like government announcements and tender notices. Although state involvement means the daily newspaper market is “stagnant,” Ko Ko said, he was still hopeful dailies would eventually be viable.
Stagnant rice exports – The value of Myanmar's rice exports dropped by 100 million U.S. dollars in the first eight months ( April-November) of fiscal year 2013-14 from 276.172 million dollars a year earlier,. During the April-November period, Myanmar exported about 451, 728 tons of rice, down from 731,201 tons on a yearly basis, said the Yangon Times daily. The decline was partly attributed to natural disasters that hit the country this year, the report said, adding that the reduction of rice export led to increase in rice price in the domestic market. Myanmar mainly exports rice and rice-related products as well as peas and beans.
Belgian interest - Belgian textiles and wood floor surfaces manufacturer Beaulieu International Group is reportedly negotiating to develop a factory in Myanmar. Senior managers of the firm have had discussions with the Naypyidaw government’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration to “discuss the legal requirements for setting up a labor-intensive business.” Beaulieu sources some of its materials from Asia but all its production factories are in Europe, including Russia, or the United States. The firm specializes in producing furniture fabrics and wood floor trimmings such as parquet. Much of the world’s wood for fashionable wood floor surfaces is sourced from Myanmar, but from 2014 a ban on raw timber exports comes into force. However, the ban will not apply to processed wood such as flooring and furniture. Myanmar is one of the world’s biggest exporters of teak wood, but excessive legal harvesting of timber plus illegal logging is depleting the country’s forests, a Natural Resources and Environment Conservation Committee report warned one year ago. Legal timber exports in the 2010-2011 financial year netted Myanmar US $600 million, according to government figures.
Difficult to do business in Myanmar - Myanmar is one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to do business, according the World Bank, which included the Southeast Asian nation in its annual “Doing Business” report for the first time. Myanmar’s first appearance in the report reflects liberalizing economic policies advanced by the quasi-civilian government that took power in 2011. The report looked at different areas where bureaucracy or over burdensome regulations can stifle entrepreneurs. There was some praise for Myanmar, particularly for the government’s decision to reduce its corporate income tax rate. Under the 2012 Foreign Investment Law the income of local branches of foreign enterprises are taxed at 25 percent, the same basic rate as locally incorporated companies. But the country was ranked bottom of the global table for the ease of starting up a business, largely due to the high cost. Starting a business involves 11 different procedures, takes 72 days and costs nearly US$1,500 in Myanmar, it said. And a deposit of more than $58,000 is required to start a business—higher than in any other country—the report said, pointing out that such requirements in general “signiﬁcantly slow entrepreneurship.” Myanmar ranks especially poorly for “protecting investors” (182 out of 189) and “enforcing contracts” (188). “Old laws and regulations still apply in Myanmar , including the Companies Act of 1914, the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908 and the Evidence Act, 1872,” the report said, while noting that new laws being discussed to replace old ones would have an impact on the ease of doing business. Despite the difficulties outlined by the World Bank, healthy rates of economic growth are widely predicted for Myanmar, and many foreign companies have announced plans to invest in the country. A separate World Bank report issued earlier this month reported that foreign direct investment had grown to 5.2 percent of gross domestic product in the 2012-13 fiscal year, compared with 3.7 percent the year before.
Thilawa SEZ under fire - Villagers facing relocation from the planned Thilawa Special Economic Zone said government officials have pressured them into accepting unfair compensation for the loss of farmland to the Japan-backed investment project near Yangon. Work on the first 400-hectare phase of the 2,400-hectare Thilawa SEZ in Yangon Division’s Thanlyin Township is due to start at the end of the October. At a recent consultation meeting, most the 84 affected families signed agreements accepting the government’s compensation offer of six years’ worth of harvests and a roughly 60 square meter plot of land in a barren area prone to flooding. At a recent press conference, however, Mya Hlaing, a representative of the villagers, came forward to complain that villagers signed the agreement under duress, as the officials supposedly warned villagers of the consequences if they refused to sign. Thilawa SEZ is a project between the Myanmar and Japanese governments, together with a consortium of Japanese firms and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Located about 25 km south of Yangon, the project will include a deep sea port, Japanese factories, and large housing projects. Myanmar owns 51 percent of the project and is responsible for developing a 2,400-hectare core zone. At the heart of the disagreement between the government and the farmers are events in the mid-1990s, when the then military government seized land with little or no compensation in order to set an industrial zone. The project failed to take off and farmers resumed cultivating their lands. When plans for the zone were revamped last year, the farmers were told to leave. Meantime land prices have reportedly soared to as much as US$10,000 per hectare, and many farmers are now demanding higher compensation. Villagers’ representative Mya Hlaing said the families were disappointed by government actions as officials had previously promised that the project would follow World Bank guidelines for community consultation and resettlement, and environmental and social impact assessments.
Free Wi-Fi - Internet service provider RedLink Communications has announced that it will install free Wi-Fi zones throughout Yangon by the end of the year. The company is still discussing the number of zones that it will establish but expects the project to be completed by the end of December. These free Wi-Fi areas will be installed at SEA Games venues and in public places such as pagodas, marketplaces, universities, hospitals, bus terminals, railway stations and airports. The objective in installing these Wi-Fi zones is to provide widespread access to the Internet so that everyone is able to spread news and information. RedLink will also implement Wi-Fi zones that require payment to access. However, setting up the free access areas was the company’s main priority. RedLink Communications is the official Internet service provider for the SEA Games. The company has been in business for over five years and has over 10,000 subscribers across Myanmar.
Gas pipeline goes live - The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) said Sunday that the China-Myanmar gas pipeline has gone into full operation after the completion of its end section connecting the cities of Lufeng and Guigang in southwest China. Some 793 km of the 2,520-km pipeline are in Myanmar, while the rest is in China. It will deliver 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually to Myanmar and southwest China, which is expected to reduce coal consumption by 30.72 million tonnes per year. Construction of the gas pipeline began in 2010. It is part of a Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline project, which also includes building a crude oil pipeline. The Myanmar section of the gas pipeline started to deliver gas to China in late July.
Culture and Tourism
Internet radio - The newest member of Myanmar’s broadcasting fraternity, 7 Online Radio, is trying to change the way Burmese tune in to the radio. Started originally in September 2012, the station aims to reach Burmese living abroad, as well as citizens at home. The 6 friends who invested to start the station decided to forego the FM dial because of the high investment cost and the lengthy permit process. And Internet radio appealed to them, Director Min Chit Thu said, because anyone could listen for free from anywhere in the world. Unusually for any media outlet in Myanmar, 7 Online Radio has no official government media license to operate. Min Chit Thu, said the station just started broadcasting without a permit. Now, because it doesn’t broadcast news, the station has even received an official “No Problem” from the Minister of Information. 7 Online Radio does face an uphill battle, though. The Internet in Myanmar has broken several times over the past few months and connection speeds are often slow. But as the station keeps its servers in Thailand and broadcasts from Thailand, Myanmar’s well-documented Internet connectivity issues have not impacted the station’s stream very much. After a year, according to Min Chit Thu, 7 Online currently has about 10,000 domestic- and foreign-based listeners, with their strongest listening bases in Myanmar, Singapore, and Malaysia. Listeners tuning in, using their computer or mobile device, will catch Burmese music, new and old, along with music news and local celebrity gossip. The station offers a 24-hour program stream with six hours of new programming a day. The station is currently looking for more investors, as well as to add advertising to its stream.
Visa free for Vietnam - Burmese citizens will soon be able to travel to Vietnam without a visa. Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Vietnam and Myanmar governments had signed an agreement that would also allow Vietnam passport holders to visit Myanmar without a visa on trips of less than 15 days. The visa exemption for both countries will be effective starting on Oct. 26. Vietnamese passport holders can now travel to nine countries in Southeast Asia without a visa. In the past, a tourist visa to Myanmar cost US$20 for Vietnamese passport holders. Burmese travelers were charged $55 for a visa to Vietnam. Vietnam is now targeting over $1 billion investment in Myanmar by 2015 and at least $2 billion by 2020, especially in the construction and banking sectors, as Myanmar’s economy opens after decades of isolation under military rule. Bilateral trade between both countries has grown an annual average of 60 percent since 2009.
Changes at more domestic airlines on the cards? - Myanmar’s domestic airlines face challenges in coming years as foreign players are expected to take more interest as the country opens up. Alongside Myanmar Airways International (MAI), majority owned by Kanbawza Bank chairman U Aung Ko Win and with the government holding a minority stake, and domestic counterpart Myanma Airways, there are six other domestic carriers. Ownership is concentrated in the hands of well-connected people who thrived under the country’s military junta. U Aung Ko Win also owns Air KBZ while Golden Myanmar Airline is owned by KMA Group’s U Khin Maung Aye. Yangon Air has been linked to the United Wa State Army (UWSA) but is blacklisted by the US Treasury Department. U Tay Za, chairman of Htoo Group, owns Air Bagan, also on the blacklist, and may have held a stake in another local carrier, Asian Wings Airways at some time. The sixth local airline, Air Mandalay, is a joint venture between the government and Singapore and Malaysian companies. Industry sources say these carriers should prepare for disruption, since they are currently seen as offering a service below the level of regional competitors. Slicker regional carriers, which come with large networks linking far-flung destinations, will be given a boost by ambitious regional plans to open Southeast Asia’s aviation market. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is attempting to bring in an “Open Skies” policy in 2015, part of a broader plan to integrate the region’s economies. Preparing for the increased competition of a liberalized aviation market, Asian Wings agreed in September to team up with All Nippon Airways (ANA), selling 49 percent of its shares to Japan’s largest airline for US$25 million. Under the companies’ agreement, ANA will lease aircraft to Asian Wings and provide training to its pilots.
Italian help - Italy has offered to maintain Thingazar Monastery, an early Yatanarpon-style, wooden monastery that has fallen into decay in Mandalay. Myanmar King Mindon built the monastery for Thingazar Sayadaw in 1861. Italy has contacted Sittagu Sayadaw Ashin Nanissara regarding the renovation of Thingazar Monastery but hasn’t officially made an approach to the Ministry of Culture. Italy would need permission to maintain the monastery in accordance with various rules and regulations. Currently the Golden Temple is being repaired with technical assistance from the U.S. The Thingazar Monastery is next. The Archeological department last renovated Thingazar Monastery in 1999 and 2004. However, the monastery has fallen into decay and needs maintenance. Among the monasteries build by King Mindon, Thingazar Monastery is the only one remaining in Mandalay.
Downtown Yangon on WMF watchlist - The World Monuments Fund (WMF) announced it has added the city center of Yangon to its 2014 Watchlist. The WMF releases the list biennially with the intention of drawing attention to global cultural sites that have been threatened by neglect, armed conflict, commercial development, natural disasters or climate change. Central Yangon boasts one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of 1920s colonial architecture in all of Southeast Asia, which is of particular interest to the WMF. “Being placed on the Watch list will draw international attention [to Yangon]. Also, this will promote the importance of conserving our heritage,” said Dr. Thant Myint U, founder and chairman of Yangon Heritage Trust.
Historic bell to be salvaged - Well-known businessman Khin Shwe says he plans to salvage the Great Bell of Dhammazedi from the bottom of the Yangon River. The bell, which is believed to be the largest in the world, sunk in the river more than 400 years ago and since the late 1980s there have been several unsuccessful attempts to recover it. Khin Shwe told local journal Snapshot, “We’ve already hired big ships to salvage the bell. After that—if we can salvage the bell—we will put it on display at Shwedagon Pagoda.” According to historical records, the bell is made of 290-tons of copper, gold, silver and tin alloy, which would make it the biggest bell in the world. Portuguese warlord Filipe de Brito e Nicote (known as Nga Zinka in Burmese) conquered Syriam and Pegu with the help of an Arakanese army in the early 16th century. He removed the Dhammazedi bell with the intention of melting it down and using it to make cannons, but a raft that was transporting the bell sank at the confluence of the Pegu and Yangon River, at a site known as Monkey Point, in 1608. The lost bell has long been a source of fascination for Burmese and foreign researchers. Since the late 1980s, the Myanmar government and private individuals have tried in vain to retrieve the bell, with poor visibility, silting, nearby shipwrecks and 400 years of shifting currents hampering progress.