Villagers protect historical sites in Ayutthaya Province

26 October 2010 - Villagers in Pompetch community, in the province of Ayutthaya, are speeding up the building of sandbag water barriers as the
water level in the area has risen to nearly 1 meter deep. They are also geared up to prevent a historical site from being ruined. Several ancient sites in
Muang district, Ayutthaya Province, have been threatened by the most devastating flood in recent history; hundreds of homes in the area, especially
the community of Pompetch, have been inundated under deep water brought on by the overflow from a river. The banks of the river are overflown,
given the province is where two rivers, the Chaophya and the Pasak, merge. In the hope of protecting the ancient and historic sites from being
damaged, villagers have joined hands building protection walls from thousands of sandbags. They have also installed water-pumping machines to
pump out flood water. Out of concerns for the safety of the people, volunteer guards have been posted to keep an eye on the community day and
night. [Source: NNT]

Floating market crash in Thailand sinks 20 boats

05 October 2010 - Wat Tha Ka Rong's floating market in Ayutthaya's Muang district has been closed for repair after a rice tugboat crashed into a
market raft, sinking 20 merchant boats and slightly injuring three people on Sunday. Abbot Phrakru Sutthipanyasopon has workers repairing the rafts
around hardest-hit pier area while 10 merchant boats have been retrieved from the riverbed. Several others are missing and are feared to have been
swept away. The 100m-long market raft that can support 200 persons was safe, the abbot confirmed, saying most of the people standing on the raft
managed to escape, with only a few sustaining bruises. Damages were being assessed and the floating market will be closed until repairs are
complete. Police have filed charges of reckless driving, causing injuries and property damage, and are interviewing witnesses. [Source: The
Nation/Asia News Network]

Department of Fine Arts receive 49 million Baht funding from Cabinet

02 April 2007 - The government has authorized 49 million Baht in funding to repair Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The Director of the Office of Fine Arts
region 3, Mr. Anage Srihamaht, revealed that the frontal wall and flood defense barrier of Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya province have been in
use for more than 20 years, resulting in deterioration to some sections, especially during the 2006 flooding. Mr. Anage reports that water from the
Chao Phraya River is about to flood important areas of the temple. Mr. Anage revealed that the Cabinet has seen fit to approve 49 million Baht to
the Department of Fine Arts. The fund is being allocated to repair and strengthen existing wall and water barriers at the temple. The project is
expected to take at least 7 months, while the Office of Fine Arts region 3 will expedite the project to ensure completion by year's end in time for
future floods. Mr. Anage added that his agency is currently awaiting inspection of temple grounds by the Department of Public Works and Town and
Country Planning before commencing repair work. [Source: NNT]

Dutch return to old Siam - The Netherlands government is set to open a new information centre in Ayutthaya on a historic site.

18 April 2010 - In a matter of months, the government of the Netherlands will open a new building in the Dutch settlement in Ayutthaya. The building
- the
Dutch Information Centre - is touted as a gift that will cherish the long-standing friendship between the two nations. The Dutch Information
Centre project, an extended activity to mark the 400th anniversary of Thai-Netherlands relations in 2004, received the go-ahead after cabinet
approval in November 2009. The Dutch, who were employed by the legendary Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie,
or VOC), were one of the first Europeans to come to the former capital of Siam to trade during the reign of King Ekatosrot in the early 1600s. Like
other foreigners in the Kingdom, they were allowed to settle in the area, which is now known as
Khlong Suan Plu subdistrict on the banks of the
Chao Phraya River. Not far from
Wat Pananchoeng, the Dutch settlement was located next door to the British settlement and opposite the
Portuguese settlement. However, it was abandoned after Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese army in 1777, left vacant, and later trespassed on in certain
areas.In 1938, the Fine Arts Department registered the Dutch settlement as an historical site. However, it took the department more than 60 years to
restore the site to its former glory. The first excavation was conducted in 2004 when the two countries celebrated the 400th anniversary of their
friendship. HM Queen Beatrice, while on an official visit to Thailand in 2004, visited the settlement. The Fine Arts Department excavated the site
again the following year but were forced to suspend further work being done due to a budget shortage. Though with financial and technical support
from the Dutch Embassy the excavation resumed in 2008; this time it was carried out by a team of archaeologists from both countries. Methadol
Wichakana, the head of the Ayutthaya Historical Park, said the Dutch Embassy helped to allocate 10 million baht to the project. After a sluggish
start, the project made great progress, he noted. The excavation enabled archaeologists to locate the brick foundations of four concrete buildings.
One of the buildings, a two-storey structure, was the VOC's main office, and the rest included a warehouse, accommodation and a billiard hall
building. Some antiquities, including an ancient VOC coin and remnants of a tobacco pipe, as well as Cheng Dynasty and Japanese ceramic bowls,
were unearthed from the site. According to Mr Methadol, the centre's design and structural blueprints were completed and the embassy was to
choose a construction company to fill the job. "It will be a two-storey, Western-style building", he said. Archaeologist Phattarapong Khao-ngern said
the design of the Dutch Information Centre will be a replica of Dutch architectural structures of that era. Such VOC buildings still remain in some of
the countries that were occupied by the Netherlands, including Indonesia, where Jakarta served as the main trade centre for the VOC. Mr
Phattarapong said it was clear that the VOC in Ayutthaya was smaller than the one in Jakarta, therefore the new settlement was also smaller in size.
"Unfortunately, a larger part of the current Dutch settlement in Ayutthaya was possessed by a private shipyard. The settlement, now measuring 1.3 rai
[about 1,800 m2], occupies only one tenth of the original plot", Mr Phattarapong said, and pointed out that the excavation work showed half of the
main 12.5 x 45-metre building is within the settlement while the other half falls on the shipyard's premise. "We thoroughly examined the part on our
side but could not do much on the part that belongs to the shipyard company because it is private property", he added. The archaeologist expressed
hope that there will be a chance to further study the area occupied by the shipyard. Hans van Santen, a senior diplomat at the Netherlands Embassy,
said a team of Thai-Dutch scholars was appointed to take care of these matters for the centre. Representatives in the Thai team included renowned
historians Dhiravat na Pombejra and Bhawan Ruangsilp, who did his PhD study thesis on the East India Company in Siam. The Dutch side is led by
Thailand expert Hans ten Brummelhuis. Mr van Santen said the centre was to deal straightforwardly with the role of Dutch traders in Ayutthaya in
that period, adding that there was no intention to "glorify the Dutch role". Dhiravat na Pombejra said his contribution to the project is to draft a
working paper and produce an outline of what historical material or explanations should or could be included in the centre; other contributions will
come from Mr Bhawan and Mr ten Brummelhuis. The team is to meet some time soon to conclude the work, he said, adding that there was only one
team meeting late last year. He said he looked forward to a new meeting to be called by the Fine Arts Department. "My main objective is to explain
not only the key events and facts in the Dutch East India Company's involvement in Siam [1604 to 1765], but to also provide appropriate historical
contexts [Ayutthaya as a cosmopolitan, multicultural port city; the policies of both the VOC and the Siamese kings as regards with trade and
diplomacy] and the continuity of Thai-Dutch relations up until the present", said Mr Dhiravat. The historian also noted that the centre plans to make
good use of Dutch historical documents. "Our intention is to present a rounded picture with proper historical contexts - not just another Thai-centric
discourse". Mr Dhiravat said he hoped the centre would be of great benefit in stimulating more interest in Thai-Dutch relations, leading to more
research and written works on the topic. "It should also add to the body of knowledge about Ayutthaya available to the general public, including
schoolchildren and tourists", renowned historian Charnvit Kasetsiri said of the project. The historian, who proposed a re-excavation of the nearby
Japanese settlement, said that previous archaeological works at the ancient settlements were too rough and more efforts should be made to
re-examine them. He also said that such projects are significant as they add depth to the study of Ayutthaya, expanding it from palaces and temples.
[Source: Bankok Post - Writer: Ploenpote Atthakor]

Cabinet extends tourism stimulus measures

04 February 2010 - The Cabinet Tuesday agreed to extend the government's tourism stimulus measures for another year. The visa fee waiver, airport
landing and parking reductions and insurance coverage for visitors will now end in March 2011. Tourism accounts around 6 per cent of the country's
gross domestic product. It acknowledged that last year welcomed only 14 million tourists, down 8 per cent, while tourism revenue of Bt 527 billion
also showed a 3 percent dip. The Cabinet endorsed a Bt 372 million budget for the restoration of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, of which Bt 20
million will go to TAT to improve tourism contents. It also approved a Bt 20.5 million budget to promote "safe and creative"; media, a scheme under
Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart. An allocation of Bt 51.1 million from the central budget will be used by the Prime Minister's Office to
restore the country's image. [Source: The Nation]

Travel guides go digital - Tourists can now calculate routes and costs via mobile Internet

27 January 2010 - Travelling to Ayutthaya is now more convenient thanks to the facility to calculate costs, time and energy consumption prior to the
trip. A tourist uses his smart phone to plan his sightseeing route and calculate how much time and money will be required. The National Electronics
and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) has teamed up with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), while the Ministry of Culture has
recently introduced, a website which helps tourists to plan their travelling via their smart phone or personal computer. The pi-pe
website currently can be accessed via smart phone and computers running the Safari or Firefox internet browsers. The pi-pe website helps tourists to
plan their travel itinerary with the recommended places such as restaurants and noodle shops, or sightseeing highlights such as temples and museums
or natural or cultural attractions. The program has been initiated to tackle the existing problem of disparate tourist information and to enable tourists to
fully navigate each route, point to point, during their travels. The pi-pe website has accumulated GPS mapping and travel information to help tourists
enjoy more convenient route planning. "Recommended destinations will show up together with the route and distance calculation", said NECTEC
researcher Rattapoom Tuchinda, who spent six months developing the pi-pe program for both computer and smart phone access. Once tourists plan
to visit multiple locations, the program will calculate travel times and then figure out how long they should spend at each place in order to fulfill their
itinerary. "The content is provided by TAT and our team has also thoroughly surveyed the course so the distance in kilometres from the starting point
can be exactly calculated", Rattapoom noted. Users can also calculate their energy usage and costs based on which kind of fuel they use. For users
without smart phones or other mobile internet devices, schedules can be saved and printed to take on the journey. Currently, the system details are
some 100 interesting locations in Ayutthaya, including temples, museums, restaurants, hotels, and more. As well as route info, users can also access
details such as entrance fees and opening times. The developer noted that the program was originally developed for use with the iPhone, but the team
is planning to deliver to other mobile platforms, such as Android and Blackberry. "The program has been developed for the Safari and Firefox
browsers but we have not developed for Internet Explorer because it causes difficulty in the back-end system interface development and there are
lots of loopholes on", said Rattapoom. He admitted that the content is not yet complete, as it requires feedback from users. "All content is in Thai
language as initially we would like to serve Thai people, but if the project receives enough support, we will do English versions as well" he said.
Nectec director Pansak Siriruchatapong noted that the collaboration has initially focused on public services covering six areas: libraries and archives,
archaeology, museums, local wisdom, contemporary art culture, and classical dance. Ayutthaya is the pilot province. The website has accumulated
cultural content from the community and organisations and married it with technology to increase cultural capital, which is a mechanism of creative
economy. Nectec is now developing the program for Sakon Nakhon and Pathum Thani. Nectec assistant executive director Virach
Sornlertlamvanich noted that Sakon Nakhon has a strategy to stimulate the provincial economy with tourism. Pathum Thani also has many cultural
attractions including Mon culture, the Science Museum and Rice Museum. Both provinces have their own independent administration and boast
strong infrastructure and content, said Virach, who added that the provinces have collaborated with TAT and the Science and Technology
Knowledge Centre (STKC) of the Science and Technology Ministry. Nectec will initially take care of the pipe website server, but this will eventually
be handled by the provinces and TAT. Virach added that NECTEC is now talking with the private sector to ask companies to carry on the project
and commercialise the website. "Software companies view that this research project is useful and has potential for business in terms of services, so
they can create revenue from the program," he said. Phanom Kaributra, TAT executive director, IT Office, noted that consumer behaviour has
changed as tourists are now more likely to search for information on the net. Citing the National Statistical Office, Phanom said the there are some 16
million Internet users in Thailand and 40 million mobile phone users. Thus web and mobile will become the most useful tools for information search.
"TAT has a great deal of tourism information, and thus we need to disseminate this to better serve tourists" he said. The director added that this
content will not only be from TAT, but will also be consumer-generated content, thus it can create added value and return more revenue to the
community. "This is really green tourism as travellers can plan in advance, calculate everything, and save energy and money" he said. The program
that TAT has worked with the Culture Ministry initially focuses on cultural tourism, but in the future it will extend to other areas such as business
travel, eco-tourism, and so on. "The program needs to integrate all these areas in order to be of most benefit to tourists" he said. [Source: Bangkok
Post - Writer: Sasiwimon Boonruang]