Friday, August 18, 2017

Mandalay’s Maha Myat Muni Pagoda gets security upgrade

Amid a spate of bomb scares in recent weeks, Mandalay’s Maha Myat Muni Pagoda has added nine new members to its security team and trained 11 members of the crew in methods for detecting potential explosive devices, pagoda chair U Soe Lin said on November 29.

Visitors to Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in Mandalay pass through a metal detector. Photo: Kyaw Ko Ko / The Myanmar TimesVisitors to Maha Myat Muni Pagoda in Mandalay pass through a metal detector. Photo: Kyaw Ko Ko / The Myanmar Times

Pagoda chair U Soe Lin’s November 29 announcement comes after minor explosions rattled four separate locations in Yangon last month, injuring no one. Police reportedly have suspects in custody but have yet to release information on their investigation.

Three security squads have been assigned to watch visitor entrances. The 11 security guards trained by police and the Ministry of Border Affairs in advanced bomb detection techniques will in turn train their colleagues, U Soe Lin said. The addition of nine new guards brings the security force to a total of 53. They will add more if necessary, he said.

The pagoda’s security personnel have been ordered to keep an eye out for people wearing baggy clothes and carrying extra possessions. They have also been instructed to pay particular attention to the areas were motorcycles, cars and slippers are typically left unattended.

“We placed security all over the pagoda,” U Soe Lin said. “We gave them walkie-talkies to inform others if they see any odd behaviour. We are mainly concerned with keeping our pagoda secure, regardless of the explosions in Yangon.”

On November 23, private security guards from all over Mandalay Region were instructed by police on best practices for explosives detection at public places like shopping centres and other commercial outlets where they are typically deployed.

“I noticed that the security guards are being more careful than usual,” said a Chan Mya Tharsi resident. “Usually, we can enter freely if we donate gold leaf to the pagoda. But now, we can enter only after passing their security system. It is very good that they are performing their tasks systematically. The pilgrims are safe and they can worship at the pagoda peacefully.”

The first in a string of explosions to rattle Yangon last month came on November 17, when two crude bombs went off at Ocean Super Centre in Mayangone township. Three days later, four explosions caused minimal damage at Capital Hypermarket in Dawbon township. Last week, small explosions took place at a South Dagon immigration office on November 24 and the following day at the Yangon Region government office. No one was hurt in any of the incidents.

Last month Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda also had its security boosted. The Union minister for religious affairs said the extra precautions were put in place in order to prevent terrorist attacks, amid an upsurge in violence in northern Rakhine State.

Translation by Emoon and Khine Thazin Han