Human rights concerns torpedo Thai UNESCO hopes as Bagan gets nod

Bagan in Myanmar.
Bagan in Myanmar.

Travelers with “visit every UNESCO World Heritage site” on their bucket list will need to get busy as the agency added over two dozen new locales to the list – while consideration of Thailand’s largest national park was punted over human rights concerns.

While the Kaeng Krachan National Park was not evaluated because of concerns about the treatment of the Karen people, the World Heritage Committee meeting in Azerbaijan “inscribed” many new locations this weekend, including Bagan in Myanmar and Babylon in Iraq.

“The property bears spectacular testimony to the peak of Bagan civilization, when the site was the capital of a regional empire. This ensemble of monumental architecture reflects the strength of religious devotion of an early Buddhist empire,” UNESCO said in its announcement.

UNESCO weighs World Heritage status for ancient sites, largest national park in Thailand

The committee deferred discussion of Kaeng Krachan until the next conference after Australia, Norway and a conservationist group objected. Indonesia and China were among nations supporting Thailand’s application.

Earlier in the year, UNESCO reps visited the area following a petition by Karen to deny recognition until the Thai government, which has evicted them from lands they live, addresses their status and concerns. In 2014, a leading Karen activist, Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, was abducted and presumed murdered while on his way to meet Karen whose homes had allegedly been burned down by park officials in the park.

Here’s a list of the sites added so far this week:

  • Royal Building of Mafra—Palace, Basilica, Convent, Cerco Garden and Hunting Park (Tapada) (Portugal)
  • Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga (Portugal)
  • Churches of the Pskov School of Architecture (Russian Federation)
  • Risco Caido and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria Cultural Landscape (Spain)
  • Jodrell Bank Observatory (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
  • Historic Centre of Sheki with the Khan’s Palace (Azerbaijan)
  • Dilmun Burial Mounds (Bahrain)
  • Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies (Republic of Korea)
  • Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai’pi (Canada)
  • Erzgebirge/Krušnohoří Mining Region (Czechia/Germany)
  • Landscape for Breeding and Training of Ceremonial Carriage Horses at Kladruby nad Labem (Czechia)
  • Water Management System of Augsburg (Germany)
  • Krzemionki Prehistoric Striped Flint Mining Region — (Poland)
  • Budj Bim Cultural Landscape (Australia)
  • Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City (China)
  • Jaipur City, Rajasthan (India)
  • Ombilin Coal Mining Heritage of Sawahlunto, (Indonesia)
  • Mozu-Furuichi Kofun Group: Mounded Tombs of Ancient Japan (Japan)
  • Megalithic Jar Sites in Xiengkhouang — Plain of Jars (Lao People’s Democratic Republic)
  • French Austral Lands and Seas (France)
  • Vatnajökull National Park – dynamic nature of fire and ice (Iceland)
  • Paraty and Ilha Grande – Culture and Biodiversity (Brazil)
  • Ancient Ferrous Metallurgy Sites of Burkina Faso (Burkina Faso)
  • Babylon (Iraq)
  • Migratory Bird Sanctuaries along the Coast of Yellow Sea-Bohai Gulf  (China)
  • Hyrcanian Forests (Islamic Republic of Iran)
  • Le Colline del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene (Italy)
  • The 20th century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright (United States of America)

Related stories:

UNESCO weighs World Heritage status for ancient sites, largest national park in Thailand

Thai ‘khon’ masked dance gets UNESCO Heritage listing

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