UNESCO assessing flood-affected Ayutthaya, World Heritage site


BANGKOK, Nov 30 –  The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) water specialists and experts from four countries are now surveying the Ancient City of Ayutthaya in Thailand to assess the impact to the World Heritage property from the country’s most disastrous flooding in decades, according to the world cultural body.  

International experts from Italy, Japan, Netherlands and Thailand headed to Ayutthaya on Tuesday for a three-day mission to survey the site in order to understand the extent of damage and develop further recommendations for a short and long term restoration plan to the Thai Government, the UNESCO said in a statement released here on Wednesday.

This visit is the first international expert mission to Thailand on the restoration of Ayutthaya Historical Park and cultural monuments in Ayutthaya. High-level representatives from the Embassies of Japan, Portugal and United States of America in Thailand also joined the trip, it said.

Thai Culture Minister Sukumol Kunplome welcomed the international experts before their departure.

“Initially, I was anxious that the loss of evidence will result in incomplete integrity, and a restoration without sufficient budget and scientific support will certainly affect authenticity of the monuments and the sites. However, through your kind and prompt assistance to mitigate the possible damages caused to the property, I feel very much obliged and relieved,” Mrs Sukumol was quoted as saying.

The minister also assured that she would do her utmost to restore the historical sites upon recommendations by the experts.

According to Ministry of Culture’s Department of Fine Arts, the entire historic island of Ayutthaya and its surrounding area was submerged by the floods for over a month since 4 October 2011. In some areas, the flood waters reached a height level of approximately 3 metres. While the water has receded in the inner island, a number of monuments in the outer periphery remain flooded to this day. More than 100 historic monuments in and around Ayutthaya World Heritage Site have been affected by floods.

The Department’s primary damage assessment reported cracks at two historical remains at the Reclining Buddha image of Wat Lokkaya-suttharam and Chedi Assembly (Chedi Rai) at Wat Phra Ram. It was also reported that Wall of Wat Chai Wattanaram, Wall of Wat Mahathat and Sungharam Chedi (pagoda) have collapsed.

The historic city of Ayutthaya was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1991. Founded c. 1350, Ayutthaya was the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. Its remains, characterised by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendour. For more information, http://whc.unesco.org/