Si Thep Historical Park battles overcrowding after UNESCO world heritage listing

Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post

A significant influx of visitors to Si Thep Historical Park in Phetchabun sparked concerns among officials, following its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list on September 19. The province was ill-prepared for the escalated tourist numbers, leading to calls for immediate action to protect the park and manage the crowds.

Chatchaval Benchasiriwong, the 54 year old deputy governor of Phetchabun, stated on Sunday that the province had failed to implement necessary measures to manage the park after it was initially added to UNESCO’s tentative list in 2019. He revealed that the number of daily visitors had skyrocketed from 300 to approximately 7,000.

We need an urgent solution to protect Si Thep Historical Park from damage amid tourist overcrowding, Chatchaval said. He expressed regret at the missed opportunity to prepare the site for tourism over the past four years.

“We had time to prepare the site for tourism for four years, but why did we do nothing?”

The tourist boom has led to complaints about inadequate facilities like parking spaces, food, nearby accommodation, and toilets, according to Chatchaval. In response, the governor instructed him to arrange mobile toilets and the provincial executive committees have convened to discuss possible solutions.

A meeting between the governor, executives, and senior officials of the Ministry of Culture, which oversees the park, is anticipated in the near future to chart a course of action.

Ancient cultural sites

Si Thep Historical Park, spread over an area of 867 hectares within the Si Thep district, houses three cultural sites: the ancient Town of Si Thep, Khao Klang Nok, and Khao Thamorrat Cave. These ancient monuments date back to the Dvaravati period, a kingdom that held sway from the sixth to the 11th century. The Fine Arts Department (FAD) undertook the first excavation of the site in 1978.

The park’s popularity triggered a surge of about 30,000 visitors to Khao Klang Nok, an ancient ruin spanning 64 metres in length and 20m in height, over the past weekend, Chatchaval disclosed. To tackle safety concerns, the FAD has temporarily closed off the ancient monument, allowing visitors to take photos only from its base.

During his visit to Si Thep Historical Park on Friday, Culture Minister Sermsak Pongpanich expressed concerns over tourist safety and potential damage to the historical site. He instructed the FAD to collaborate with Phetchabun and local authorities for better site management, Bangkok Post reported.

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Atima Homtientong

Atima is a dedicated news writer living in Bangkok. With a degree from Mahidol University, she focuses on reporting key issues and happenings around the country. In her off time, Atima enjoys writing and producing music.