YANGON, Burma (AP) — Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday decried restoration work on Burma’s centuries-old Bagan temples for not meeting international standards.
Burma’s application in 1996 for World Heritage status for the temples was rejected by the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO because the restoration did not use original designs and materials.
“It’s so sad to see that the temples are not properly restored. Restoration of the temples is not up to international standards,” Suu Kyi told reporters Monday.
Her visit to Bagan last week was her first trip out of Yangon since being released from house arrest last year.
Bagan, also known as Pagan, has more than 2,800 monuments built between the 10th and 14th centuries. The central Burma site is considered one of Southeast Asia’s major historical landmarks, with Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and Indonesia’s Borobodur temple.
UNESCO still has the site on its “tentative” list. “These monuments represent the outstanding artistic and technical achievement of an original and innovative Buddhist school of art,” the agency has said.
Construction of a 60-meter (198-feet) -high viewing tower in 2003 drew particular ire form conservationists, with UNESCO saying the tower would be out of scale and detract visually from the historical monuments.
State tourism authorities responded that the tower intended to provide unfettered views would prevent tourists from climbing on fragile pagodas and stupas and damaging them.
Citing the conservation of Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu valley in Nepal, Suu Kyi said experts took five years of study before carrying out restoration of the structure.
“Thorough technical study should be made before carrying out the restoration work. One cannot just go about restoring the temples using modern material and without adhering to the original architectural styles,” Suu Kyi said.
Suu Kyi said one of the reasons her National League for Democracy urged a boycott of a government-launched Visit Myanmar year in 1996 was that conservation of the temples was done hurriedly for the tourism campaign and was substandard.