Many ancient cities in Southeast Asia are situated in a semi-rural environment, places inhabited by large industrial agriculture plantations and factories. The recent burgeoning Asian economic growth has led to rapid urbanisation, growth in middle-income population, and subsequently greater demands for domestic and regional tourism. This has fostered into a great drive to attain UNESCO world heritage listings at the expense of many communities residing on the sites. From Georgetown to Sukhothai, residents fail to benefit from growing demand for heritage products and tourism.
Si Thep is one of Thailand’s oldest and largest ancient city which is now among one of the country’s many tentative world heritage listings. But, what does it take to drive heritage development and urban planning? What must policymakers consider? This Heritage Seed Fund project uses ‘macro-data’ approach to investigate the factors associated with the social and economic development of the surrounding communities in Si Thep. In doing so, we have collated data on human demography, environment and climate challenges, with intangible and tangible cultural heritage locations. This has enabled us to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the community and the challenges that may come with turning the site into a UNESCO world heritage destination. Preliminary findings have unravelled many conditions associated with dependency theory, but not just with the environment but also cultural heritage.