via Bangkok Post, 07 and 09 Mar 2019: While I’m bringing to attention the recent plans to drill for oil next to one of the ruins in Si Thep, it’s a good idea to take a step back and appreciate the significance of Si Thep in the first place. The temple ruins are only the most recent archaeological vestige; the area has been occupied for at least the last 2000 years, developing into a moated settlement with distinct Dvaravati and Khmer periods. This transformation over time which can be detected by archaeology is part of what makes Si Thep an exceptional heritage site.
The Dvaravati monument and the park, which hopes to one day be included in Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites, have recently been a hot topic in the media. But not because of the Unesco bid. (The nomination is still in the planning process.) Si Thep was in the news because an oil drilling operation is set to be carried out close to Khao Khlang Nok stupa. How close? Reportedly, around 100m.
Civic groups in the province as well as the Fine Arts Department, which oversees the historical park, protested the project, as it is a potential threat to the 1,300-year-old religious monument. While it is still unclear how the conflict will be resolved, perhaps we should take this opportunity to get to know a few things about Khao Khlang Nok and Si Thep.
The historical park can be explored on foot or, even better, by bicycle. According to archaeological studies, the area now designated as the historical park has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Excavations have turned up human skeletons buried with pottery and other objects dating back 2,000 years. Over the centuries, the settlement developed. During the Dvaravati period, which was heavily influenced by Indian cultures, it became a moated town, and continued to prosper throughout the period of Khmer dominance.