Locals fight Heritage push for Phra Pathom Chedi

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Many locals living and working near Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom province have voiced opposition to the Culture Ministry’s plan to seek World Heritage status for the sacred pagoda. 

At a public hearing on Saturday, opposition to the plan stemmed mainly from locals’ concerns that achieving World Heritage status would negatively affect their way of life as well as their livelihoods. Many of the participants run stalls near the pagoda. 

To the vendors, World Heritage status would come at their expense. 

Many vendors in Ayutthaya have complained that since Unesco listed the Historic City of Ayutthaya as a World Heritage Site in 1991, they have been forced out of the area. 

Saturday’s public hearing drew about 200 participants. 

Culture Minister Sukumol Kunplome yesterday refused to abandon the plan, though. 

“It’s just an initial public hearing,” she said. “We will have to listen to people in other parts of Nakhon Pathom too.” 

The minister said she would discuss Saturday’s public hearing with officials from the Fine Arts Department. 

Tharapong Srisuchat, who heads the department’s Office of Archaeology, said some participants felt that questionnaires distributed at the hearing were unclear and overly academic. 

“We are ready to improve the questionnaires if public hearings are to be held for people across Nakhon Pathom,” he said. 

Tharapong insisted that World Heritage status would have no impact on stalls around Phra Pathom Chedi. 

“We have found that Wat Phra Pathom Chedi already regulates stalls in the area well,” he said. 

He did not think vendors’ concerns about possible impacts on their stalls constituted a solid reason to oppose the plan. 

Phra Pathom Chedi is one of five sites Tharapong’s office plans to submit for inclusion on Unesco’s candidate list of World Heritage sites this |year. 

Among the other sites are the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi and the sacred pagoda at Wat Phra Mahathat in Nakhon Si Thammarat. 

“Nakhon Si Thammarat residents fully support the plan to seek World Heritage status for the sacred pagoda in their province,” Tharapong said. 

He added that Kanchanaburi residents, too, mostly supported the plan to push for the inscription of the Death Railway as a cultural World Heritage site.  

Author: Pakamas Jaichalard | Source: The Nation [August 22, 2011]

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