Bid to Gain UNESCO World Heritage Status for Chiang Mai Gathers Pace

The leader of the group tasked with preparing Chiang Mai’s bid for World Heritage designation says the formal application will likely be ready for submission by the end of the month. Woralun Boonyasurat is the chairperson of the Chiang Mai World Heritage Initiative Project (CWHIP) and she told reporters there was still a little more work to be carried out beforehand.

The Art Department head at Chiang Mai University said mapping out urban infrastructure improvements over the next decade or so had to ensure there was no impact on key sites like the Old City walls and the temples enclosed by them. She also noted the application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) did not automatically guarantee inclusion on the World Heritage list.

Chiang Mai has been on the proposed World Heritage Site list for the past three years. This duration is longer than the minimum one year required before full World Heritage status is endorsed. Thailand is home to five of the world’s current 1,092 designated UNESCO heritage sites. The five Thai sites include two other historic cities, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai.

CWHIP advisor Sirikitiya Jensen explained that Chiang Mai had a rich history and theoretically matched all the criteria to be accorded World Heritage status. She said all the city’s sites, including Doi Suthep and its surrounding forests, should be preserved for posterity. Her comments came with a postscript saying if Chiang Mai was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site it would ensure conservation yet allow for natural development.