Friday, July 15, 2011

Govt urged to declare stand on convention

Jul 15, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

An archaeologist has called on the next government to express its position on the country's member status of the 1972 World Heritage Convention (WHC).

He made the demand during a seminar titled "World Heritage Management," organised by Thammasat University's College of Innovation's Cultural Management yesterday in the wake of the government's announcement last month that it would withdraw Thailand as a member country of the WHC.

Suwit Khunkitti, head of the Thai delegation to the World Heritage Committee, said Thailand resigned as a member country due to the committee's planned consideration of a Cambodian management plan for Preah Vihear temple at the 35th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco)'s World Heritage Committee in Paris.

Tharapong Srisuchart, the Fine Arts Department's Archaeology Office director, said Mr Suwit's announcement had not yet come into effect. This meant Thai representative Somsuda Leyavanija, deputy permanent secretary for culture, is still one of the WHC's 21 members, he said.

WHC regulations state that if any member country wanted to resign from the WHC, its government must submit an official letter to Unesco director-general Irina Bokova.

The withdrawal takes effect 12 months after the letter is received.

"Now it depends on the next government to decide whether to send the letter confirming the withdrawal or do nothing to retain membership," he said.

However, he said Mr Suwit's move resulted in the good news that the management plan on Preah Vihear temple was not considered at the latest World Heritage Committee meeting, he said.

Mr Tharapong said the withdrawal would have no effect on the country's five registered World Heritage sites, and the three other sites on tentative lists which had yet to be nominated as World Heritage sites.

The five World Heritage Sites were Ban Chiang Archaeological Site in Udon Thani, the Historic City of Ayutthaya in Ayutthaya, Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns in Sukhothai, Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex in Nakhon Ratchasima and Thungyai-Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuaries in Uthai Thani.

The three sites in Unesco's tentative list were Phimai and its Cultural Route and Associated Temple in Nakhon Ratchasima, Phuphrabat Historical Park in Udon Thani and Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Pisit Charoenwong, another archaeologist, said if the country was at risk of losing its territory and sovereignty, withdrawing from the WHC might be the best way out.

Mr Pisit said, however, that he still saw the convention as an important tool for member countries as it would help them protect the world's ancient sites. Mr Pisit suggested Thailand build understanding among other member countries to ease impressions that Thailand bullied its neighbouring country of Cambodia.

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