The colonial-era mayor's residence was demolished early this year, despite being protected under a heritage law. Photo: trtr-mitiru blogspot

The Myanmar military has ordered a prominent businessman to rebuild a heritage site his company demolished to make way for a US$500 million high-rise construction project in Yangon’s Bahan township, according to The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar online publication.

Zaykabar, the company in question, is one of Myanmar’s largest construction companies and its chief executive officer, Khin Shwe, one of the wealthiest men in the country. The now-demolished colonial-era building, which once served as the home of several Yangon mayors, has to be restored “in its original style.” It is not clear how the company could take over the building and the land, which reportedly belong to the military.

According to the Yangon Heritage Trust (YHT), a non-governmental organization advocating for heritage protection, the 5.25-hectare plot of land was known as Mount Pleasant during the British colonial days. Apart from the mayor’s residence, the home of the manager of the Chartered Bank was also located there. One of the guesthouses is still intact, but the main building is gone.

The buildings, which were demolished in February this year, would have been protected under a heritage law that was enacted in 2015.

Zaykabar had plans to build in their place 12 high-rise structures. Khin Shwe was said to have had close connections with the military. In 1997, he enlisted US-based Bain and Associates to do public relations for Myanmar in the United States. While not hired directly by the then military government, progress reports were reportedly sent to the Myanmar Embassy in Washington and the aim would have been to lift trade sanctions then in force in the United States.

Khin Shwe also served as a member of the upper house of Myanmar’s parliament from 2011-2016, representing the military-run Union Solidarity and Development Party.