FAD urged to rethink Khao Yala plan

FAD urged to rethink Khao Yala plan

Quarry industry eyes region's limestone

An ancient fresco is seen at Khao Yala mountain in Yala's Muang district. (The Fine Arts Department)
An ancient fresco is seen at Khao Yala mountain in Yala's Muang district. (The Fine Arts Department)

Conservationists have urged the Fine Arts Department to nullify an order that revokes part of Khao Yala mountain -- home to an ancient fresco -- as a conservation site in Yala's Muang district in order to pave the way for a quarry.

In a complaint to the Culture Ministry's inspector-general Prasop Riang-ngern on Thursday, the conservationists said the revocation order, approved by former fine arts chief Anant Chuchote on Sept 30 last year, demarcated nearly 200-rai of land from the 887-rai archaeological site on Khao Yala mountain.

The Fine Arts Department (FAD) registered this part of Khao Yala as an archaeological site in 2001 as it is home to a treasured fresco which dates back 2,000-2,500 years.

However, in issuing the order, the department said opening the area which is rich in limestone for quarrying is necessary given the growing need for rocks. It added that rock blasting is also necessary for improving national security and that this move "will help clear out" southern insurgents who have taken shelter in the remote area.

But the conservationists who gathered under the Network for Khao Yala Mountain Protection insisted the area needs to be preserved and studied, as rock blasting will cause pollution and compromise locals' quality of living.

The network said revocation of the mountain's heritage status breaches a clause in the mineral law which says rock blasting is prohibited in areas of historical and archaeological value.

The inspector-general briefly said the ministry would examine the case as conservationists have questioned the legitimacy of the order which Mr Anant signed just one day before his retirement on Sept 30 last year. The revocation was announced in the Royal Gazette on Feb 26.

Walailak Songsiri, of the Lek Prapai Viriyaphan Foundation, said Khao Yala mountain is of historical significance and probably one of the oldest areas where people in the pre-historic age set up communities.

Moreover, the remarkable fresco is evidence the location was a sacred site where ancient people performed rituals.

The evidence also shows the area was part of the Buddhist Sri Vijaya civilisation during the 14th-15th centuries before people embraced Islam in the region. The area also served as the focal point of trans-peninsula trade in the region during the Sri Vijaya empire, she added.

Activist Srisuwan Janya has campaigned against the revocation of Khao Yala mountain's heritage status and is set to file a case against Mr Anant today with the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

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