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Marketing Myanmar's heritage is a tough sell

Debate intensifies over new uses for iconic colonial buildings as tourism numbers wobble

The Secretariat Building at dusk: The Yangon landmark was farmed out to the private sector for renovation and commercial use to help cover the estimated $4 billion construction bill for the new capital, Naypyitaw. (Peter Janssen)

YANGON -- The partially renovated Secretariat Building in Myanmar's commercial capital -- one of the most magnificent colonial-era structures in Southeast Asia -- opened its doors to the public in November after 15 years of disuse. But the future of this controversial monument to British rule remains unclear, despite its potential role as an iconic cultural center for heritage tourists.

The building, known as the Ministers' Building after Myanmar (formerly Burma) gained independence in 1948, lost its relevance when the military regime of Senior Gen. Than Shwe unveiled the purpose-built new capital of Naypyitaw in 2005.

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