Dept. of Fine Arts to reduce Yala archaeological site area, paving way for mine

The Department of Fine Arts has announced that it will be reducing the area of a designated archaeological site on a mountain in Yala where several prehistoric paintings have been discovered, in order to open up the area for rock mining.

A picture of a group of five people holding pictures of cave paintings printed on paper in front of the Ministry of Culture building.

The People Protecting Yala Mountain Network at the Ministry of Culture this morning (Source: The Reporters

The announcement was released in the Royal Gazette on 26 February 2020, but was signed on 20 September 2019 by Anan Chuchote, then Director of the Department of Fine Arts. It states that since Yala and its neighbouring provinces have issues regarding sources for industrial rock as most sources are located in areas where there are “national security problems,” the Department has to reduce the area of the Yala Mountain Prehistoric Painting archaeological site from 887 rai 3 ngan and 40 square wa to 697 rai and 75 square wa.

The announcement states the reason for the reductionis “to relieve the deficiency in industrial rock used for construction” and “to reduce the violence that could be caused by insurgent groups in the southern provinces.”

The record for the Yala mountain archaeological sites in the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre database states that 4 prehistoric painting sites and 2 prehistoric temporary residences have been found in the area, along with other archaeological evidence, such as human and animal bones, pottery shards, and stone tools, and that the sites are dated to around 3000 years old.

A picture of a cave painting in a frame. The text at the bottom reads: old painting age: 1200 - 1500 years old at Yala Mountain.

One of the prehistoric paintings from the Yala Mountain site. 

The record also noted that parts of the area in the north and east of the mountain have been blasted for limestone mining.

Earlier this morning (5 March), a group of people known as the People Protecting Yala Mountain Network went to file a petition to the Minister of Culture to have the announcement annulled and to investigate the previous department director’s decision. The network also called for a survey of the area in order to find and document other archaeological sites and asked that the Ministry of Culture see the importance of local history.

Wara Chanmani, leader of the network, said that the area is an important archaeological site, and could be the last major archaeological site in the Deep South. Wara also said that the reasons given in the announcement are not sufficient for allowing the mountain to be blasted in the name of industry, and that it is not related to the Deep South insurgency.

Archaeologist Walailak Songsiri has also been quoted by Green News as saying that the announcement paves the way for rock mining in the Yala Mountain area, which could damage the archaeological sites and said that the Department of Fine Arts should reconsider its decision before any damage is done.