Deep in the jungles of Myanmar lie the remains of an ancient kingdom, the 15th-century royal city of Mrauk-U. Located in the Bay of Bengal and separated from the rest of the country by the Arakan mountain range, Mrauk-U Township boasts a stunning rural landscape dotted with the hundreds of spires of stone temples, remnants of the former glories of the Arakan Kingdom.
Long abandoned by local authorities, the Buddhist temple complex of Mrauk-U was brought back to the spotlight in 2017, when former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan led a mission to Rakhine State and urged Myanmar to nominate Mrauk-U for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The proposal sought not only to protect the city’s many archaeological sites from ruin, but also aspired to nurture a communal sense of pride in the local population’s heritage. Yet in recent years, efforts to uncover Mrauk-U’s mysteries have been threatened by conflict between the Myanmar military and a secessionist group, the Arakan Army.
In this episode, Dr Bob Hudson speaks to Dr Thushara Dibley about the remote archaeological site of Mrauk-U, its turbulent history, and how attempts to have it recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site are contributing to peacebuilding efforts in a region torn by civil conflict.
Bob Hudson is an archaeologist, an associate of the Asian Studies Program, and an adviser to UNESCO and the Myanmar Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture. Bob holds a PhD in archaeology from the University of Sydney, and recently completed a fellowship with the Australian Research Council.
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