The Secretariat, also known as the Ministers’ Office, was opened to the public on Martyrs’ Day last Sunday.
I didn’t know about it last year so I was determined to go there this year even though I wasn’t sure whether it would be opened or not. Luckily, it was opened and the Irrawaddy wrote that it would only be opened until 3 pm so I had a quick lunch and went there with my sister and cousin.
We arrived there around 1 pm. We didn’t know where the entrance gate was at first. We saw some people coming out of the gate on Bo Aung Kyaw Road so we tried to go inside but were told to enter via the gate on Thein Phyu Road. The building complex occupies the entire block so it took us a few minutes to reach the other side.
As expected, the place was crowded with sightseers since the place is only opened once a year. We went inside the first building complex and saw wooden stairs that are off limit. The sun was shining brightly from the glass ceiling, giving us the colonial architecture inside the building.
After we exit the building, we saw a vast courtyard teemed with sightseers. The white-colored Martyrs’ Monument on the right was crowded so we decided to visit there later and went into another building complex. This was the building where Bogyoke Aung San and eight other martyrs were assassinated.
Fortunately, the public was allowed to visit the first floor. A narrow staircase on the right side of the building took us to the first floor. We were pretty much lost and didn’t know where to go. We passed through many rooms but didn’t know what they were.
We went inside a rather dark room which smelled like bat or pigeon feces. There was a stand with old documents in the room and people were looking at them using the flashlight from their mobile phones. Someone said it was a reading room. Some people went up a winding staircase. My sister said there wouldn’t be much to see and it was dangerous to climb up and down the stairs in the dark so we left the room.
We wanted to see the meeting room where Bogyoke Aung San and cabinet members were killed. Instead of finding it, we ended up going downstairs. A lady staff said the upper floors are forbidden since the staircase was decaying. Still not satisfied with not finding Bogyoke’s room, we asked a security guard who told us to take the staircase on the left side.
As it turned out, it was the same wooden stairs that took us upstairs. This time, it got more crowded and some people were coming downstairs. We barely managed to avoid them as we go upstairs again. We almost took the same directions again and saw security guards attempting to shut the doors of the reading room. It was around 2 pm so I got a bit angry since the closing hour wasn’t until 3pm. My sister said it was probably to prevent people going up the winding staircase in the room since it was quite dark in the room.
So, we just walked around until we saw people looking inside glass doors and taking photos with their phone cameras. I tried to look inside and only saw a prayer hall with a Buddhist shrine. I was a bit confused because I expected to see a table and some chairs in the room. A man standing on the far left side of the room confirmed that it was the room where Bogyoke was assassinated. I couldn’t really see much and I got tired of being pushed by people so we left shortly after. We went down again and noticed some flowers being laid down on a staircase. Later, I found out that it was the staircase used by the killers when they marched up the stairs to kill everyone in the room.
On our way out, we visited the monument even though it was still crowded. Many people were standing in front of Bogyoke’s plaque so I didn’t even get to see it. I just looked at the picture my cousin took instead.
My sister was meeting with a friend and he hadn’t gone inside yet so my cousin and I were told to wait near the Thein Phyu gate while they tour the place again. Ten minutes after we went out the gate, the security guards suddenly started closing the gate and told the people who were trying to leave from the gate to leave via the other gate. There were about 15 to 20 people waiting outside but they didn’t allow them to go in either. It was only after 2:30 pm so it was a bit too early to stop the public to entering the building complex.
I called my sister to let her to know come out via the other gate but the security guards then changed their minds because they allowed entering and leaving from the gate again.
Later on, a friend told me that she went there at 4:30 pm but wasn’t allowed to go inside even though she saw some people in the building complex. Another friend said he was inside the building at 2:30 pm but was told to leave immediately as it was closing down.
Well, this is quite confusing. Why do they keep changing their mind every second? Why couldn’t they post a sign stating the opening hours at the entrance gate? Speaking on signs, I saw no signs giving directions on where to go once we were inside the building. I didn’t even know what these buildings and rooms were used for in the past.
The most disappointing thing was that the room where the martyrs were assassinated had been turned into a prayer hall.