Culture Ministry restoring historic temple with U.S. help

Thailand and the United States are working together to restore one of the Kingdom’s most famous temples in the old capital of Ayutthaya as new U.S. Ambassador Michael DeSombre attended a ceremony to launch the project’s second phase last week.

The Bangkok Post reported that “U.S. Ambassador Michael DeSombre didn’t let the scorching sun scare him yesterday as he joined senior officials from the Culture Ministry and local authorities to inaugurate the new phase of the restoration and spent time touring the temple.”

The temple, Wat Chaiwattanaram, was built in 1630. Ayutthaya was the capital of, and the name of the Thai kingdom from about 1350 until 1767. UNESCO designated the old part of the city as a World Heritage Center in 1991.

When it was the nexus of Thai civilization, Ayutthaya was “one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce. Ayutthaya was strategically located on an island surrounded by three rivers connecting the city to the sea,” according to UNESCO’s website.

The World Monument Fund (WMF) said Wat Chaiwatthanaram has been “Identified by cultural historians as the structure most emblematic of Buddhism’s influence on Thai society.” Until the late 1980s, however, the temple “was a deserted ruin,” according to the Fund.

Although it was restored and protected after that, massive floods in Thailand inflicted damage on the temple structures and its artwork in 2011. Thailand’s Fine Arts Department approached the Fund and the U.S. embassy for assistance at that point.

“In 2012, WMF was awarded support from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation and the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to undertake critical preliminary work,” the WMF said on its website.

That work included technical assessments, documentation, the setting of high priorities for conservation, and the building of a new flood-wall. The second phase will consist of restoring the temple itself, keeping it as close to its original features as possible.

Ambassador DeSombre said that a proposal for the project’s third phase is being submitted to the U.S. government for approval, and he hopes the support will continue. The result will be known in July.

Photo courtesy ofแนะนำที่เที่ยว/วัด-โบราณสถาน/วัดไชยวัฒนาราม/