Through our eyes : the negative side of Luang Prabang as world heritage site
Luang Prabang has been declared a World Heritage Site since 1995. Until now, it has been more than 20 years in a small town. Along the Kan River, this city has become a destination for tourists to dream of visiting once.
Laos has just opened the country to embrace investment in the 30s. Who can not think of is the era when the government of Gen. Chatchai announced the policy to change the battlefield into a trade field. After that, there is a process to push Luang Prabang to register as a World Heritage Site. And becoming a world heritage site is a great seesaw to the statistics of visitors
In 1994, only 146,155 tourists visited Laos, but when Luang Prabang was registered as a World Heritage in 1995, the tourism statistics of Laos suddenly grew amazingly. Until recently, heading to the target of 500,000 people / year, most foreign tourists, about 80% visiting Laos must reach Luang Prabang.
And Luang Prabang is such a romantic city
Luang Prabang has a few main roads. In addition to temples from the palace Almost all the architecture of the house is colonial, which reminds of the atmosphere of French rule. Even though reaching the alleyways If still living in the old town The homes of the people were all so retro.
In fact, new houses There are a lot of new types built in the old town of Luang Prabang. Like many guesthouses in the alleyways around Prachiyom Shop Boiled rice, morning coffee shop that Thai people know well In the past, it was a village. The appearance is a simple wooden house. Of authentic villagers Like a house in a typical Laos countryside When there was “Gan Mullak Room” or the World Heritage Office to manage and control the city plan. building All the developments in the old town, it was not possible to add and renovate existing houses without permission. As for roadside row houses, as well as to renovate anything, it must be in the manner specified by the Heritage Room.
Tourism is inherently a venture of capital. As for the World Heritage City that aims to welcome its visitors with inherent standards and guidelines, it is also an activity of capitalism.
Local Laos people, the real capital of Prabang In the past 20 years ago, there was not enough money for a bucket to improve his house according to the plan set by the Heritage Room. There are not many paths that they can choose. Most of them choose to sell or rent their real estate, land or houses in the long run. Those who own land, buildings in the old town are Laos people with capital. Or is a government official that can access the funding source
Everything that made up the world heritage city, Luang Prabang, a new era is made up of modern Laos capital. That went into operation instead of the former Lao people, Luang Prabang, who had chosen to emigrate with a rental Did not know that when moving behind them Luang Prabang became an expensive gold, sparkling instantly.
The price of Luang Prabang’s real estate is very expensive for a long time now. A small 4-storey row house in the old town has a top floor that can be lived. With the lowest monthly rental price of around 550 US dollars, or almost 20,000 Thai baht – this is the lowest. Some locations up to $ 750-800. Foreigners wanting to do business selling food, selling coffee, clothes must be rented out. Except those who invest more than $ 500,000, therefore have the right
Real Laos people who are still able to make a living will be at the fresh market in the morning. And the night market which focuses on selling food (That is quite expensive) drive a tricycle Or become employees And the other one is Laotian people that have enough funds Owning the guest house But then, most of these people are not native, traditional communities.
Under the cuteness, serenity and beauty of the Luang Prabang World Heritage City that we see now, it is driven by the plans and capital of the world. This is not a bad thing. The world cannot escape capital, but the path of capital should not abandon the little people to drive them away. Such as those who previously had no funds Need to let rich people to rent to make high profits I personally had to carry a cloth outside of the doll town of Laos, modestly.
My feelings Luang Prabang’s old town is a doll city.
Because as soon as we drove outside the World Heritage Zone controlled by the management plan We will really experience the atmosphere of Luang Prabang in Laos. Both sides have strange commercial buildings. Various types of shops Department stores that only sell items from China Stadium that is popular with Lao people to watch football, kick in the afternoon. To the bus terminal Anything that was forbidden in the old town was set outside, with clubs, bars to women.
The world heritage city therefore looks like a different world than the city in which Laos people live.
In the case of the original Lao people, the land owners in Luang Prabang were unable to make a living according to the new conditions. As determined by the Heritage Room Need to allow people to rent money to continue to do themselves as a picture of the truth hidden under the peaceful, beautiful atmosphere of Luang Prabang.
I think that Chiang Mai, which is stepping onto the world heritage route, will not repeat Luang Prabang in the dimension of abandonment of indigenous people – the little ones in the original city. On the other hand, indigenous people in 4-5 communities in the old town area should be fully benefited. Both in terms of preserving traditional lifestyles and in terms of economic, social opportunities
Preservation and development of traditional communities in the World Heritage District are one of the important topics that Chiang Mai society should collaborate on.
It would be a pleasure to see that the young people of Chiang Mai, who are the local people, will be the first group to really benefit, instead of the big investors that come with the World Heritage sign.
Author: Bunnaroth Buaklee