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UNESCO Heritage Site Overwhelmed! Thousands Flock to Si Thep Historical Park, Local Authorities Dumbfounded and Unprepared!

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Travelers are flocking to the Si Thep Historical Park in Phetchabun, having recently been granted the prestigious recognition of a Unesco World Heritage Site, as of September 19. However, according to local administrators, the sudden influx of tourists has posed significant challenges. Deputy governor, Chatchaval Benchasiriwong, pointed out the province’s unprepared state at handling such overwhelming crowds. He indicated that although the historic landmark was added to the tentative Unesco list in 2019, measures aimed at effectively managing the escalating number of visitors remain absent.

“Visitor numbers have exploded from 300 daily to a staggering 7,000”, remarked Mr. Chatchaval. “Immediate solutions need to be mapped out to prevent potential damages to the Si Thep Historical Park due to tourist overcrowding. We had four years to get the site ready for tourism, but it seems like little has been done,” he questioned, having served as the deputy governor for two years.

The sharp increase in visitor count has prompted authorities to wrestle with complaints pertaining to inadequate facilities such as parking lots, food, local accommodation, and restroom facilities. In response to these grievances, the deputy governor recalled being commissioned by the governor to introduce mobile restrooms and clarified that the executive committees of the province had gathered recently to brainstorm on solutions.

As the historical park falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture, a meeting between the governor, the ministry’s executives, and senior officials is in the pipeline to discuss possible ways forward.

Spanning over an impressive 866.451 hectares in the Si Thep district, the Si Thep Historical Park exhibits the rich cultural heritage of three sites: the historic town of Si Thep, Khao Klang Nok, and the ancient monuments at Khao Thamorrat Cave, traces of which date back to the Dvaravati period, which spanned from the 6th to the 11th century. The site underwent its first excavation in 1978 by the Fine Arts Department (FAD).

Mr. Chatchaval highlighted that with the increasing popularity of the site, an estimated 30,000 tourists visited Khao Klang Nok, an extensive ruin towering at 20 meters high and 64 meters long, just over the past weekend. To avert safety concerns, the FAD has imposed a temporary closure of the ancient monument, and visitors are only permitted to take photographs around its base, he added.

The Culture Minister, Sermsak Pongpanich, expressed his concerns during a recent visit to the Si Thep Historical Park on Friday, bringing the issue of visitor safety and potential damage to the historical site to light. According to Mr Pongpanich, he had instructed the FAD to join hands with Phetchabun and local authorities to amp up their site management efforts.

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