Report Thailand

10 February 2005

Tsunami Report in Cultural Context from Thailand - Somlak Charoenpot , Secretary, Thai National Committee for ICOM

At the level of the preliminary survey of the Thai Fine Arts Department under the conduct of the Office of National Museums and Office of Archaeology, we have found that none of the tangible heritage has been directly affected. There are over a hundred archaeological sites in the six provinces devastated by the tidal waves, namely Phuket, Phang-Nga, Krabi, Ranong, Satul and Trang. These sites are situated in the hinterland, therefore, were not affected by the rise of the sea level. However, according to Chiraphorn Aranyanak, our scientist conservator of the Office of National Museums, there should be another thorough investigation in those areas with regard to the possibility of humidity changes that may harm the sites, especially the rock painting at the "Phi Hua To Cave" in Krabi. Moreover, in some devastated areas, a geographical change has occurred and there should be further archaeological survey and excavation around the places to see if there will be any evidence found in the context of archaeology.

When speaking of tangible heritage, the main concern has been given to antiquities. This is why, reports have found none had been destroyed. However, some of the temples and mosques in those provinces are partly destroyed. The National Museum staff are inquiring on any possibility of any damage that may have occurred to any of their collections that are of heritage value.

Because most of the main devastated areas of these provinces are villages, so many lives have vanished. Some fishing villages have been totally wiped out, such as Ban Namkhem in Phang Nga province. One fear over the intangible heritage loss have come to our concern because through the incident, we have already learned about how instinctive (intuitive?) action (learned through their ancestors) has saved some of the villagers. Aside from the intangible heritage, a lot of indigenous artefacts may have also gone with the disaster. The museum staff, along with ethnologists and anthropologists in the country, are trying to pursue that matter.

The Ministry of Natural Resources is also mapping the geographical changes which occurred in the area. At this stage, one good thing we found is that many disturbances that have been made to the area by mankind were corrected by nature itself. Due to the incident, organisations involved are trying to take advantage in the best and proper management of the use of the land.

Because of the disaster, the Royal Thai Government now finds that it is necessary to educate people regarding the "Tsunami". As a consequence, a project on the establishment of the Tsunami Museum is being set up. The Museum will contain the archival documents and exhibits of the incident on December 26, 2004 and an introductory knowledge on the "Tsunami" itself in conjunction with disaster preparedness, international cooperation and most of all the unity of the Thai hospitality or "Nam Chai" during the incident. A team of museum planners and archivists have been sent to those provinces to gather documentary and collection materials for this project. Aside from the museum, there also some ideas on the establishment of living museums and memorial sites for certain areas.

Assistance will be needed for the project in every subject concerned: archival, museology, ethnology, science, etc. All are welcome to give their assistance at any way one can, Appreciation go with this inquiry.