Tham Luang gets push for Unesco status

Tham Luang cave inside Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non National Park in Chiang Rai's Mae Sai district is lit up with fluorescent lights. Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non National Park.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) will propose the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non National Park for inclusion in Unesco Global Geoparks in 2025, said director-general Ratchada Suriyakul Na Ayutthaya.

The national park became globally known after 12 boys aged 11-16 and their 25-year-old football coach entered Tham Luang cave on June 23, 2018 and were almost immediately trapped by rapidly rising floodwater.

They were rescued from the cave between July 8-10 in a mission that involved Thai Navy Seals, international cave diving experts and many other rescuers and experts from various fields.

Many movies and documentaries have been made about the high-risk rescue operation, which at the time drew media attention from all over the world.

Mr Ratchada said the DNP had approved a budget in the 2022 fiscal year worth 23.6 million baht to build and improve facilities such as a tourist service centre, public restrooms, first aid stations and nature education route in the cave complex in Khun Nam Nang Non forest. The construction is expected to be finished by the end of this year.

He added that some initial facilities have already been completed this year such as educational botanical and geological areas. More than 1.5 million people visit Tham Luang cave every year, said Mr Ratchada.

The Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non National Park is located on a 12,000-rai forest, approximately 1,920 ha, covering four subdistricts -- Wiang Phang Kham, Pong Pha, Pong Ngam and Huai Khrai -- in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai province.

"We aim to propose the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non National Park for the Unesco Global Geoparks in 2025 to promote sustainable tourism as well as improve Chiang Rai province to meet requirements for the Unesco Creative Cities Network (UCCN)," said Mr Ratchada.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had assigned the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to work with affiliated organisations such as the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Culture to see if Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non National Park can also be listed as a historical park.

''The goal is to promote the park to the world and boost the local economy around Tham Luang cave,'' said Mr Ratchada.

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