If someone were to hear an expression like, “the Jewel of Rangoon,” what would undoubtedly come to her/his mind is the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most famous landmark in Rangoon (now officially referred to as Yangon).

Shwedagon

While the Shwedagon Pagoda is truly beautiful, there is another “jewel” in Rangoon – the Secretariat Building.

Secretariat

The Secretariat Building was the administrative seat for British-controlled Burma in the first half of the twentieth century. After the British left, it came to be referred to as the Ministers’ Building.

It was in this building in 1947 that General Aung San, hailed as “the father of modern Burma,” and six of his colleagues were assassinated on orders of a political rival.

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Today this remarkable building stands largely abandoned. There are some men who guard it, and who appear to live inside it as well. One can see their clothes hanging up to dry, and I’ve heard that they have pulled out the wooden frames of the windows to use as firewood for their cooking fires.

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The building is surrounded by two fences, an original fence and a more recently constructed one. This, combined with the many trees that surround the building, make it difficult to photograph.

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Nonetheless, its beauty is clearly evident to anyone who walks by.

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And it is a relatively long walk as the building complex taxes up an entire city block.

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I’ve heard conflicting reports about the fate of this building. A year or two ago, there were rumors that the government was going to let it be converted into a hotel. Then when some politicians opposed this, it was declared that it would become a museum.

I’ve also read reports that it is going to become a hotel AND a museum.

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As Burma starts to open to the outside world (and more foreign investment) this jewel of Rangoon is precious indeed. There is a lot of money that could be made by selling it to a foreign hotel chain to develop.

But then there is that complicating factor that this is the place where General Aung San was assassinated. Surely that makes this site “sacred” for the nation and impossible to sell. . .

Only time will tell what decision the powers-that-be will make. For now though these two puppies can rest assured that the grounds of this decaying architectural beauty will continue to serve as their private playground.

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