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Burmese Colonial Architecture

By Lindsay Kuhlmann

burma “Rangoon’s urban landscape is still dominated by colonial-era buildings, especially in the Central Business District fronted by the Rangoon River, site of pre-world War Two “plural society’ that included large, economically active populations of immigrant Indians and Chinese. Despite the encroachment of post-1988 high-rise structures, the foreign visitor can still see a colonial-era downtown unmatched anywhere in Asia." (Seekins, pg 258)


            This quote found in Donald M. Seekins' “The State and the City: 1988 and the Transformation of Rangoon” is something that I related to when visiting
Yangon.  The architecture of the city appeared to be stuck in time. Looking out of my thirteenth floor hotel window I could see the decaying structures of the colonial era. Except for the few new hotel buildings, which must have been funded by the government, the buildings were deteriorating. These observations also relate to what Seekins describes in the article as “a new line of military leaders aggressively transformed the capital city in line with strategic, commercial and ideological goals" (Seekins, pg 258).

cow Everywhere that I visited it was almost impossible not to  financially support the government. From the hotels to the airlines many of the tourist industries seemed to be controlled by the military regime in power or at the very least heavily taxed by the government. Ethically I found it very confusing to visit Burma. I wanted to support the people of Burma with the money I spent in the country but found it very difficult. Every transaction I made, in the back of my mind I wondered who would really benefit from this money? After reading “The Heart of Burma” by Maura Stephens, I wasn’t sure if I was acting as a responsible member of the international society. In the end only time will tell me.

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