An over 140 years old ancient Muslim cemetery in Bago Region is demolished

20th July 2014
Reported by Chan Nyein Aye


A Muslim cemetery in Bago known as Pathi Cemetery was started to be destroyed by a backhoe under the authorities’ command at about 8 AM on 18th July 2014. M-Media contacted to Bago dwellers to inquire about the issue in detail, and Ko Jamaa, a local resident, answered the interview.

M-Media (M-M) – Would you please tell us about the situation of the issue of Bago Muslim Cemetery .

Ko Jamaa (K J) – The current situation of the cemetery is that the regional government is illegally and forcibly operating excavation in it by using a backhoe.

M-M – When did they start destroying it?

K J – They started round about 8:30 AM on 18th July.

M-M – Please tell us about the history of cemetery.

K J – Yes. In 1987, a lawsuit happened between the municipal authorities and the cemetery committee as the authorities announced that they took control of the cemetery. The committee won the case. U Ba Htoo, a Muslim executive officer, witnessed in court that the cemetery was a Muslim one. Another point is that the existence of such buildings as a mosque, a common hall and an ancient well was also documented. That official declaration in court has indicated that the cemetery has owned by Muslims. So, I view that the action of the regional government is illegal. Moreover, the section 9/98 of Ancient Cultural Heritage Act published in The Light of Myanmar(one of the state papers) on 10th September 1998 stated that ancient cemeteries and cultural heritage build before 1886 had to be conserved. This Pathi Cemetery is an ancient cultural one as it has existed since before 1886. Thus, the government’s action of bulldozing it is frankly violating the section 9/98, I think.

M-M – Yes. Now, what about the ownership document of the cemetery by Muslims?

K J – The cemetery was not offered by the government but a Waqf land donated by U Abu Haat according to U Ba Htoo’s witness. Therefore, it is about one hundred and fifty years old now.

M-M – Is there any ownership document of him?

K J – We have a map as an ownership record. It was documented in the map that the land was bought as ancestor owned land. Since the land was used as a cemetery, it have been already accepted as tax-free green-licensed land under the Municipal Cemetery Law. There are three types of land. The first is religious land. The second is religious, green-licensed tax-free land and the third tax-free cemetery land. The other is construction-licensed land. Our cemetery is a type of religious land that no one including the authorities is allowed to invade nor destroy it. They have no right to invade and destroy it at all as the mosque is in it.

M-M – Yes. How are the responsible leaders of Bago Muslim Community contacting the regional government to handle the situation?

K J –We have the whole Myanmar government-recognized Islamic religious organization (a combined organization of five different organizations) regarding to this cemetery issue. We had already transferred the key of the cemetery to that organization since 2010. That organization also officially instructed us not to do anything with the cemetery without its agreement on 20th July 2010.

M-M – Yes. Then, what is the whole Myanmar Islamic religious organization doing for the current issue?

K J – The organization held a meeting on 18th July. They sent the president a condemn letter concerning to the plan of constructing the regional parliament building at the place of the cemetery. The condemn letters were sent again on 18th July. In this current situation of bulldozing the cemetery, they informed the regional government repeatedly in various ways and they are helping us their best. Besides, we Bago Muslim Community submitted a petition with attention to Bago Regional Chief Minister U Nyan Win in 18th July morning as well. We applied a condemn letter for the matter of constructing the regional parliament building at the cemetery place. I have felt that amid those efforts and informed letters, such forcible destroying the cemetery is obviously violating the freedom of worship under the 2008 Constitution.

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