Government to crack down on illegal hotels at Golden Rock pagoda
ILLEGAL hoteliers and guesthouse owners at the iconic Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda are about to face consequences, according to a September 12 statement from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture.
Some hotels have expanded far beyond their approved size, the statement said, while other entrepreneurs have been charging exorbitant prices for visitors to stay overnight in congregation halls, a privilege originally meant to be free of charge for monks and those on pilgrimages.
“It was intended for religious buildings, like the congregation halls, to be free of charge,” ministry director U Aung San Win told The Myanmar Times. “That is why we are implementing a step-by-step response, like the statement, but have not yet determined when we will destroy or take action against illegal buildings at the pagoda.”
Many religious pilgrims end up sleeping on the Golden Rock pagoda platform during peak season because some congregation halls were illegally turned into guesthouses, with prices too high for monks to afford.
Additionally, bootleg toll keepers demand money from religious pilgrims along the road, pestering them as they try to rest, the statement said.
Illegal high-rise hotels have damaged the local environment and ruined views from the pagoda platform, according to the statement.
The ministry plans to make the congregation halls free again, crack down on the toll collectors and take action against illegal hotels.
The Yoe Yoe Lay Hotel’s owners, for example, were permitted to build 135 rooms in a 30-foot-tall (9-metretall) building, but they instead built 241 rooms and exceeded the height limit, the statement said. The ministry will demolish the extra rooms.
“We already revoked the hotel licence of Yoe Yoe Lay in August,” said Ministry of Hotels and Tourism director U Myo Win Nyunt. “They did not get a construction permit for the extra 106 rooms. Then the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture will take further actions.”
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (MaHaNa) will litigate these issues, rather than the government.
“It is best that the monks and pilgrims stay free of charge at the congregation halls when they come to Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda,” MaHaNa general secretary U Sandi Mar Bhivamsa told The Myanmar Times. “If so, people can make peaceful pilgrimages without getting hassled by money collectors and overnight trouble at the pagoda.”
Pilgrims visit Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda in Mon State, where tourism officials plan to crack down on misconduct by industry operators.