Unesco Distinguishes Two Asean Sites With An Award Of Merit In Annual Competition

Lao PDR and Thailand were among the countries granted with an Award of Merit at the annual UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

A total of 12 winning projects from five countries, – India, China, Lao PDR, Australia and Thailand – have been recognized in this year’s Heritage Awards. A panel of international conservation experts met in June to review 36 entries from across the Asia-Pacific region.

Tim Curtis, Chair of the Jury and Chief of UNESCO Bangkok’s Culture Unit, said he was impressed with the quality of the entries received this year as well as the geographical expanse they covered, showing that the awards’ message of the importance of cultural preservation is gaining momentum in the region.

“The Jury were very pleased with this year’s submissions, which included fascinating projects from across Asia-Pacific. This reflects a continuing trend over the years where we are seeing a broader diversity of typologies being submitted to the Awards coming from a wider geographical spread,” said Dr. Curtis.

It is the first time that Laos has been rewarded with an Award of Merit with Xieng Thong Temple in Luang Prabang. It is considered as one of the country’s most significant monument and its conservation has been done in cooperation with the Luang Prabang Department of World Heritage. The project has been praised for its systematic conservation planning and execution.

The involvement of trained monk artisans in producing the traditional decorative works represents a noteworthy revival of an age-old practice of sustaining Buddhist temples. The major initiative has arrested the temple complex’s slow physical decay and reversed previous inappropriate conservation efforts, improving the condition of both the ritual buildings and the monks’ quarters. By combining grassroots efforts with donor support, the project epitomizes the spirit of World Heritage in promoting international cooperation for protecting the world’s most iconic heritage places.

In Thailand, a 19th-century Chanthaburi mansion in the Eastern Region has been turned into a boutique hotel and museum. Baan Luang Rajamaitri Historic Inn is a 151-year-old hotel on the banks of the Chanthaburi River in the city centre and is recognized by UNESCO experts as an example for other old communities in Thailand with its community-based conservation effort now known as the “Chantabun Model”.

The golden teakwood house formerly belonged to a local personality, the late Luang Rajamaitri, one of the province’s pioneering developers of agricultural products. The hotel reopened in October 2014 and is run like a cooperative with inhabitants of the old town being shareholders of the property. It is the first time in Thailand that community members have been co-owners of a social enterprise.

UNESCO highlights that the revitalization of the hotel helped to distil a new spirit in the old town which translated into a large movement to preserve Chanthaburi old town heritage.”The enlistment of over 500 shareholders to invest in the transformation of the house created an innovative new social enterprise model of urban heritage conservation,” the statement said. “The well-executed restoration and adaptive reuse of the Sino-Portuguese building has turned it into the linchpin of an increasingly popular cultural tourism destination.”

The same award was given to two sites in China — Ping Yao Courtyard Houses and Cangdong.