April 9 - Myanmar works to save nearly 200 colonial buildings in its former capital, Yangon, some dating back to the 1880s. Arnold Gay reports.
The oldest date back to the 1880s, with nearly 200 of them scattered around the former capital, Yangon. While some are in dire need of repair, many are still in use, serving as government offices, foreign embassies, and even schools and temples. Now, with the U.S. easing some sanctions on Myanmar, and other western nations set to follow suit, investors are eyeing some of these heritage buildings. Jon Park works for Barton Hill, a company that helps Asian and European investors buy and renovate run-down colonial buildings. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BARTON HILL REPRESENTATIVE JON PARK SAYING: "I would imagine they would suit well for boutique hotels, service apartments, or high-end residential apartments, ok. There's a lot of uses, maybe retail on the ground floors. I think with a little bit of imagination, you can put them to work." Non-governmental organization (NGO), Yangon Heritage Trust says some of these colonial buildings had been in danger of being demolished but were saved by a public outcry. Director Sonny Nyunt Thein says he's working with city officials to identify colonial buildings worth saving. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF YANGON HERITAGE TRUST, SONNY NYUNT THEIN, SAYING: "We already started all the surveying, so we invited one architect from England, he was here for two weeks and looked around. So we have supported 187 buildings and these are all including mosques, Chinese temples, schools, private apartments and government buildings." Nyunt Thein says his group has the blessing of Myanmar President Thein Sein to raise money for the cause. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DIRECTOR OF YANGON HERITAGE TRUST, SONNY NYUNT THEIN, SAYING: "Most of them are ok, ok. I think no need to tear down." REPORTER ASKING: "HOW MANY OF THEM NEED TO BE TORN DOWN?" "This we don't know yet. We still need to do all the surveying with the Myanmar architects and expert architects." It is unclear much money the Trust has raised so far, but renovating nearly 200 colonial buildings could run into billions of dollars. Arnold Gay, Reuters