Army Controls Arakan’s Most Famous Pagoda

Kyauk Taw: The army has taken control of Mahamuni Pagoda, the most famous pagoda in western Burma’s Arakan State, and has been appointing people to serve as trustees of the pagoda, said local residents.


The pagoda is situated near the site of the ancient city of Danyawaddy in Tharaktapun village in Kyauktaw Township in northeastern Arakan State, where the Military Operations Command 9, or MOC-9, is stationed.

“The pagoda trustee board has no authority to do anything for the pagoda because everything concerned with the pagoda is now being controlled by the commander of Military Operations Command 9,” said a resident living in a village nearby the pagoda. 

The resident said there are six members in the pagoda trustee board that was previously formed with elected local residents, but is now being appointed by the army commander.

The commander appoints the chairman of the board for three-month terms and is collecting all charity donated by devotees and well-wishers to the pagoda through the trustee board.

Members of the current pagoda trustee board said to have been appointed by the army are U Nyo Tha Hla, U Tha Hla Aung, U Maung Kyaw, U Thein Tan, U San Hla Phaw, and U Maung Kyaw Mya, who are from villages near the pagoda.

According to local residents, the pagoda is crowded everyday with pilgrims visiting from across Burma, and receives hundreds of thousands of kyat in cash donations every day.

Residents said the pagoda trustees are just servicemen of the army’s commander and have to hand over all cash donations received for the pagoda to the commander every day.

“The pagoda is being exalted by all Arakanese as well as Buddhist devotees across the country, and we have again and again demanded the army commander let us form the trustee board after electing the most respected and devout people from our area for the preservation and welfare of the pagoda, but the commander is still putting aside our demands with an eye for the cash donations being received by the pagoda everyday,” said one of the residents.

The pagoda is one of the oldest ancient monuments in Arakan State and local residents are worried the antiques and other valuables from the pagoda will be taken away by the army that is currently controlling the pagoda.

According to Arakanese historical records, the pagoda formerly enshrined the Mahamuni Buddha image that is currently in Mandalay, before it was taken away by the Burmese king who defeated the Kingdom of Arakan in 1784.

narinjara news

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