Burma’s Treasure Hunt: $10M Expedition to Recover World’s Largest Bell

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Burma’s Treasure Hunt: $10M Expedition to Recover World’s Largest Bell

Also: No “monkey business” in Jakarta, Ke$ha banned in Malaysia.

Some Tuesday ASEAN links:

A Burmese businessman and politician has announced that he will pay $10 million for an expedition to recover the Dhammazedi Bell – a legendary bell that has been missing for more than 400 years, thought to be at the bottom of the Yangon (Rangoon) River.

Khin Shwe, the owner of one of Burma’s largest construction and real estate firms – as well as a member of the Upper House of parliament – follows a long line of “treasure hunters” who have failed to locate the 270-ton bell, said to be the largest in the world. It is steeped in both legend and documented history.

“Originally cast in 1484 by King Dhammazedi, a Mon ruler who capital was located in the city of Bago, the bell was given to the monks at Rangoon’s Shwedagon [Pagoda],” said The Independent. “In 1608, a Portuguese mercenary who controlled an area on the southern banks of the Rangoon River, seized the bell and tried to carry it back to his base. While transporting it across the river, the bell slipped into the water, sinking a barge and a Portuguese warship.”

Both Burmese and international recovery teams have attempted to find the prized artifact, which some locals believe is protected by a curse. Several divers have lost their lives while attempting to navigate the murky wreckage in search of the bell, which is allegedly cast from gold, silver, copper, and tin.

Shwe intends to return the Dhammazedi Bell to Shwedagon Pagoda if found.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, security forces are cracking down on “monkey business” in the nation’s capital. Following an order from Governor Joko Widodo, police have begun conducting raids to rescue monkeys that are used in street performances. The macaques will be bought from their owners for $90 each and sent to a 2.5-acre wildlife preserve at Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo.

“Animal rights groups have long campaigned for a ban on the shows, which often involve monkeys wearing plastic baby doll heads on their faces,” reported The Associated Press. “They say the monkeys are hung from chains for long periods to train them to walk on their hind legs like humans. Their teeth are pulled so they can't bite, and they are tortured to remain obedient. The monkeys are often outfitted in dresses and cowboy hats and forced to carry parasols or ride tiny bikes.”

The handlers and owners of the confiscated primates – who earn about $3 a day per animal – will also be given vocational training in order to help them find new jobs. At least 22 monkeys have been rescued since last week.

Over in Malaysia, authorities have banned a performance by American pop singer Ke$ha, claiming that her lyrical references to sex and alcohol would disrupt “religious sensitivities and cultural values.” The concert, which had been planned for last Saturday, was canceled less than a day before it was set to open – even after the event organizer, Livescape, agreed to modify the show. The cancellation will cost Livescape $350,000.

“Muslims make up 60 percent of multi-ethnic Malaysia's 28 million people, while Christians account for about nine percent,” wrote Channel NewsAsia. “Conservatives occasionally cry foul over concerts by Western artists, whom they accuse of promoting promiscuity, corrupting young people, or offending religious sensitivities.”

Beyonce, Erykah Badu, and Lamb of God are some of the other foreign artists that have been banned in the past by Malaysian hard-liners.