State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi expressed interest in using cultural heritage to help unite the people of Myanmar.
In discussing the challenges of managing the transformation with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on the margins of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly on 20 September, the State Counsellor shared her interest in bringing museums up to standard so they can be places where young people can meet and learn about their common past.
“We would like to use cultural heritage as a binding force rather than a divisive force,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Director-General praised this approach, referred to UNESCO’s work to put heritage in young hands, and indicated a readiness to contribute. Ms Irina Bokova pledged support to Myanmar’s democratic reform process and the restoration of Bagan in the aftermath of last month’s earthquake.
The Director-General expressed appreciation for State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for restoration work in Bagan, the location for an outstanding complex of 11th century Buddhist temples, to be carried out under UNESCO’s technical guidance.
The State Counsellor stressed the importance of research, including the use of proper materials in professional renovations, in order not to repeat past repair practices using substances such as concrete.
Noting that UNESCO deployed a team to Bagan 48 hours after the August 24 earthquake, the Director-General indicated that a comprehensive plan for restoration has now been prepared.
“We are extremely committed to support the process of inscription of Bagan as a World Heritage Site and will send a strong message that we are not going to rush with safeguarding and restoration, but look with the greatest care for authenticity and use of traditional materials,” she said. Ms Bokova also affirmed UNESCO’s support for education reform, including strengthening teacher education. State Counsellor and Union Foreign Affairs Minister Daw Aung San Suu Kyi reiterated that education is a priority for the Government, indicating the establishment of a National Advisory Education Council to coordinate policy.
Finally, the Director-General commended the State Counsellor and Foreign Minister for her participation in World Press Freedom Day and the country’s work with UNESCO on media legislation and capacity building for journalists. The Minister emphasized the importance of professional standards and countering hate speech, in particular through social media. “With freedom comes responsibility, we have to keep emphasising this,” she said.
The State Counsellor also held talks separately with Prime Minister of Denmark Mr Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Mexican President Mr Enrique Pena Nieto and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at UN headquarters yesterday.—GNLM