Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Site of Collapsed Pagoda Sealed Off

The Irrawaddy News

Burmese authorities have banned the general public from entering the area of the collapsed Danok pagoda, local residents report.

People of Danok model village in Rangoon’s Dalla Township, where the pagoda is located, have also been warned not to talk about the accident. Local residents have been threatened with imprisonment if found talking to independent journalists.

In this photo taken on May 7, Danok pagoda is being renovated by Buddhist devotees and workers. (Photo: AP)

Burmese authorities have also banned reports in the media about the collapse of the ancient pagoda.

The 2,300 year-old pagoda, located in Danok model village in Rangoon’s Dalla township, collapsed last Saturday, killing at least 20 people and injuring about 150.

The wife of junta leader Than Shwe, members of their family and relatives of senior military officials had attended a ceremony at the pagoda on May 7, at which a sacred golden umbrella was hoisted to the top of the structure.

The association of Than Shwe’s wife, Kyiang Kyiang, and members of their family with the pagoda gave rise to a flood of speculation about the mystical significance of the accident.

The pagoda was being repaired at the time, however. The work was being carried out by the Shwe Than Lwin Company, owned by Burmese tycoon Kyaw Win.

No news about the collapsed pagoda has appeared in the official media, and one Rangoon journalist said a report written for her journal had been suppressed by the censorship board.

Local people, including family members of the victims, had been warned by the authorities not to talk to the press or even among themselves about the accident, said one resident. They were told they could face imprisonment of up to three years if they ignored the warning.

A man walks past the collapsed pagoda on May 31. (Photo: AP)

Fortune tellers were quick to find significance in the collapse of the pagoda, and elderly residents talked about the mystic powers the ancient structure was said to possess. Some said the pagoda shook when it disapproved of any visiting pilgrim. One local monk said the accident was a bad omen.

According to local lore, the pagoda was built by a Mon king. Its original name was said to be Dar Hnote, which means in Burmese “Take the knife back”—a reference to the site’s original use as a royal place of execution.

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