Fine Arts Department succeeds in halting oil- drilling project to conserve ancient temple complex
THE FINE Arts Department plans to expand Phetchabun’s Si Thep Historical Park and create a buffer zone in order to protect the newly discovered archaeological site in the area. It will also make preparations to register the newly found ruins for World Heritage Site status.
Anandha Chuchoti, director-general of the Fine Arts Department, said that he has told the regional fine arts office to draft a five-year roadmap to reform the park’s management and extend the conservation area to cover the new archaeological site.
He visited the historical park after learning about ECO Orient Resources (Thailand)’s plan to drill for petroleum just 100 metres from the ancient Khao Klangnok temple complex, which is situated outside the perimeter of the historical park.
Though the drilling project has been suspended due to opposition from the Fine Arts Department and the public, Anandha said moves to protect the Si Thep Historical Park from heavy industries and mining projects must be stepped up.
“The Fine Arts Department is totally against any plans to drill within archaeologically important areas, because such activity can have a negative impact on the ancient stupa and other historical sites that have not been discovered yet,” he added.
“This year, the department will also push for the park to be granted a World Heritage Site status by Unesco [UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation], so the park’s conservation and management can be improved,” he said.
The Khao Klangnok site was unearthed between 2014 and 2017, and archaeologists believe the ancient stupa – constructed with red laterite bricks – was built during the Dvaravati era in the 8th or 9th century.
The 20-metre high and 4,096-square-metre wide stupa is believed to be the largest temple from the Dvaravati era to be found in Thailand.
Buffer zone necessary
The archaeologists have also recently discovered that this stupa is part of a much larger temple complex. The 24 small hills around the site were found to be small pagodas and most are situated outside the historical park.
In order to ensure better management and stricter conservation measures, Anandha insisted that the park’s perimeter be extended and a buffer zone created to protect the core archaeological sites from encroachment and harmful projects.
“I want to ensure that locals living in the area are not affected by the extension and the buffer zone.
“The department will conduct public hearings first to ensure public participation and ensure local communities benefit from the conservation efforts,” he said.
“People will be allowed to live and conduct daily activities in the buffer zone and only activities that will have an adverse impact, such as heavy industries and mining, will be prohibited.”
Meanwhile, ECO Orient Resources’ manager Navin Phantham said his company had complied with public opinion and agreed to stop drilling for petroleum. However, he called on the department to mark out the exclusion zone clearly, |so his company’s operations can carry |on.
“We want the Fine Arts Department and Mineral Fuels Department to cooperate and clarify where our company can drill for oil. We have a business to run,” he said.
Navin added that his firm has a valid concession to drill for oil in the area, but since crude oil is not below the surface everywhere, it has to explore first before it can open a new oil well.