During the military regime the Haw Long palace, also called the Kengtung palace, was destroyed in the early ’90s.
After the property, located in Kengtung, Shan State, was seized it was leased to a private company and the Kyaing Tong resort was built on the same location.
Under military rule, people were afraid to talk about what happened to the palace.
Last year, community leaders began meeting to discuss how to get the property back and even building a replica of the Kengtung palace.
Kengtung was the biggest of the Shan states when the British Empire invaded the area and considered the most important.
Kengtung Saopha (Shan prince) Sao Kawng Kiao Intaleng built Kengtung palace in 1906.
Gen Than Shwe ordered the destruction of Kengtung palace on November 9, 1991. It was blown up with dynamite and leased for 70 years for the sum of 200 million Kyat (US$138,000).
Community leaders collected signatures for a petition demanding the land be returned to the Shan community.
Last year, the Restoration Committee for Kengtung palace sent an open letter to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the president of Burma, chief minister of Shan State, ministry of culture and the ministry of hotels and tourism.
Sai Sam Tip Hsur, secretary of the Restoration Committee for Kengtung palace, said with the government’s help it’s not impossible to get the land back in the hands of the community.
“I think 200 million Kyat and a 70-year agreement is not a big problem for the government if there is a will and if it really wants to consider ethnic unity, solidarity and equality.”
Dr Sai Seng Kyauk Sam, a senator for Kengtung district, queried the government’s position on the matter in parliament in Naypyidaw on February 3.
“Is there any plan to abandon the Kengtung palace and its site?” he asked.
U Tin Latt, the vice-minister of hotels and tourism, said: ”With permission from Burma’s Investment Commission, a private business company has leased the property for 70-years and built a hotel. Therefore, it’s impossible to transfer it until the end of this lease.”
In an inquiry about the Kengtung palace, Maung Maung Soe wrote: “If the Mandalay Palace was destroyed the Burmese wouldn’t accept if a hotel was built in its place. I’m not surprised the Shan refuse to accept that the palace of a Shan prince was destroyed.”