Mrauk-U differs from the older, regional temple-complex centers it’s sometimes compared to. Unlike Angkor Wat, it was never completely abandoned to the elements as it hosts a rural population who live amongst the remains of the past. And unlike Bagan, those local people weren’t booted out to make way for what Myanmar’s military junta thought a potential UNESCO world heritage site and tourist attraction should look like. Successive Myanmar governments have wanted World Heritage status for Mrauk-U and a decision was to be rendered this year. However in light of the current coup and violence against anti-junta demonstrators, that might well be on hold. Mrauk-U and this building (Shittaung Temple) are located within Rakhine State, a region that’s been in turmoil for some time. In 1977, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in the state were forced to flee for their lives after a brutal military campaign that targeted their villages. Thousands were murdered.

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