Tourists can now explore one of Myanmar’s most historical colonial buildings as Yangon’s iconic Secretariat opens to the public for the first time in decades.
Now high hopes are being pinned on the 120-year-old building becoming a major tourist draw to Yangon, with the launch of tours led by Asia Tours Myanmar while work gets underway on transforming the grounds into a cultural complex.
Yangon Heritage Trust and Anawmar Art Group are in the midst of a restoration project to bring the building back to its former glory while preserving Yangon’s architectural heritage.
Slated for completion in 2019, the Secretariat will serve as a cultural complex, housing museums, galleries, event spaces, offices and a range of F&B outlets.
In the meantime, Asia Tours Myanmar has launched tours of the Secretariat, taking in the flagpole where the Myanmar flag was raised for the first time in 1948; and the Cenotaph and Martyrs’ room, where General Aung San was murdered. Tours will run four times a day, from Monday to Friday, and once on Saturdays.
Edwin Briels, general director of Khiri Myanmar, welcomed the move, claiming the Secretariat has the potential to become a major tourist attraction.
He added: “Apart from Shwedagon Pagoda, there are not many places to visit in Yangon that have such important historical and heritage significance.”
Said Briels: “I hope this leads to bigger opportunities for Yangon to offer a quality tourist site that can compete with the rest of South-east Asia.”
The Secretariat initially served as the centre of British administration during colonial times. It was also where Myanmar’s first independent government laws were drafted and where General Aung San and eight cabinet members were assassinated.
During the junta rule, military officials restricted public access and used the building as offices, until relocating to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005. Since then, the 6.47ha site has been left disused.