Dear Chiangmai Press Corps;
Yes, this is going to all of you as it affects everyone
who has a love of Chiang Mai, and each of you has both contacts and a medium
to hopefully achieve a required result.
Recently I unintentionally revisited Wieng Kum Kam,
specifically that part named as Wat Phan Lao, and hypothesised as being the
AD 1286 palace of King Mengrai. What I witnessed there has left me extremely
disappointed and completely disillusioned regarding current local and
national plans to develop the ancient city into anything approaching
Sukhothai or Ayutthaya.
My original visits to that particular archaeology, 12
months ago, resulted in comments from archaeologists which I have been
loathe to commit in writing. Suffice it to say that even then, it had been
determined that a genuine search for historical truth was to be avoided at
When I presented cartographical and documentary evidence
to support a proposal that the site was Mengrai’s palace, the excavation
was abandoned very quickly and the site left to deteriorate, which last
year’s heavy rains accelerated. At that time there was an unwelcome
ferocity in the archaeologists’ determination that the site was “only a
temple”. One of them can be quoted, “The structures are brick, do you
think ordinary people built in brick at that time?” OK, so this particular
ignoramus referring to Mengrai as an ordinary person, was from Bangkok. We
all know that Bangkokians are completely unaware of anything north of Lop
Today FAD (Fine Arts Department) are restructuring the
whole site - I can use no other description. Over thirty cubic metres of
reproduction bricks have been dumped at the site and a team of labourers are
busily “renovating” the eroded structures. Normally I would applaud and
support such activity, but in this case I cannot, due to how they are doing
Ignoring that excavation was never completed, and
therefore the true designs and purposes of many of the structures were never
fully investigated; the unsupervised labourers are adopting the current
excavation and rains-distorted surface as being the original ground level
and are amateurishly applying childlike brick laying onto the original
structures. The shapes and profiles that were clearly visible last year are
being distorted and stylised into textbook Lan Na designs, a visualisation
which does not appear in the photographs I took when they were first
uncovered. Today’s ground surface is also known to still be 1.5 to 2
metres above the original, even after the top 1 to 1.5 metres were taken off
Worse still is the fact that they are “inventing”
structures and walls, creating them where there was no excavated evidence of
any existing. By the start of high season, this site will indeed look like a
typical AD 16th century Lan Na temple ruin, yet the early deep level
excavations showed a much different picture. The site bore no similarity to
any temple excavated inside Wieng Kum Kam, or to any surviving in or around
Chiangmai. That fact is being deliberately changed and the truth hidden from
future scholars and researchers - why?
FAD may deny this is there intent, against which I have
my original photographs and drawings.
Following a Prime Ministerial directive last year, it may
be fashionable (faddish? - sorry, bad pun) to rewrite the Burmo-Thai history
of warfare between the two kingdoms and appease current political tensions,
but there is no need to involve Wieng Kum Kam. That FAD continues to avoid
recognition of scientific geological evidence concerning the flood dating
for Wieng Kum Kam is another indicator of an ulterior political motive. They
insist that it was flooded, destroyed, and abandoned, during the Burmese
occupation of Chiangmai and Lan Na from AD 1558 to 1776, yet all the
evidence (archaeological, documentary, etc) points to the flood occurring in
the late 1520s.
The most compelling result of this mythology
manufacturing was this year’s “Underground Empire” campaign that
thoroughly spurned foreign visitation and promoted nationalism over
education with a near-complete rewrite of local history; one that ignored
medieval chronicles of events, written here by contemporary writers. Again,
why this need to use the Walt Disney approach? The truth is much more
fascinating and exciting than the modern fiction.
The past writings of prominent Thai archaeologists and
historians support what I state above. Chiangmai University’s Sarasawadee
Ongsakul criticised FAD’s level of professionalism in her Thai-language
book about Wieng Kum Kam, Silpakorn’s Dhida Saraya admitted in her
thesis-like tome on Sri Davarati that “Thailand’s first scientific
excavation only took place in the early 1990s,” and even the producer of
Suriyothai has been quoted as admitting he had to build his own city sets
because those restored by FAD were inaccurate for the period.
Additionally, other much longer “in-country” foreign
historians have seen Wat Phan Lao and conclude it is not a standard temple,
that its arrangement supports a secular rather than religious use, and that
it could originally have been defensive of the wieng’s north side. FAD
refuse to discuss this.
In conclusion, I therefore urge each of you, in editorial
and journalistic ways, please investigate this travesty that will continue
to oppress local people’s understanding of their own history and heritage
- I feel completely unable to pursue this matter in any way that would not
reveal my disgust at this archaeological vandalism.
If they are capable of doing this here, then it calls
into doubt the truth and integrity of what we see at Sukhothai, Sri
Satchanalai, Ayutthaya, Phimai, and every other archaeological park in the
kingdom. Did FAD’s in-house Disney-esque designer also create what we see
in those locations today? Can we believe anything older than yesterday that
any government department is associated with?
Thank you for taking time to read this.
(Author - Wieng Kum Kam, Atlantis of Lan Na)