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  Updated: January 17, 2006

Thai ancient Muslim sites falling into poor condition

By: Khadija Chinese

AYUTTHAYA, Thailand: The Thai government has been called on by a Muslim cultural expert to pay more attention to historic sites of ancient Muslim communities in Ayutthaya that are falling into disrepair.

Ayutthaya, to the north of Bangkok, was the first capital of the Kingdom of Thailand from the early-14th century, until its destruction by Burmese invaders in 1767.

Director of Thon Buri Historical Information Center Mr Teeranand Chuangpinit was referring to Chao Kun Takia Cemetery and Chao Kun Ku Cham Cemetery, the final resting place of noble Muslims of the Ayutthaya era, including a nephew of the powerful Sheikh Ahmad Qomi, the first lineage of the Bunnag family and the country's first Chularatchamontri who lived in the reign of King Narai.

Traditional buildings on the premises of Chao Kun Takia Mosque, more than 300 years old, are in disrepair. People can modify the buildings at will. Old and new architectural styles become confused.

Mr Teeranand said sites with great historic importance deserve better care from the Fine Arts Department.

"Just a few kilometres from a designated World Heritage site, these two historic places have never received money or expertise from the state conservation agency," he said.

The Takia Mosque community is an early settlement of Muslim migrants who came from Persia during the reign of King Songtham of Ayutthaya. Some believe the Chao Kun Takia Cemetery was the burial ground of a respected Muslim Indian believed to have possessed supernatural power.

The Takia Mosque has become a popular destination for local and foreign Muslims. Buddhist Thais also visit the mosque to make a wish and, if the wish is granted, make merit such as releasing goats and chickens.

Chao Kun Ku Cham Cemetery is also in poor condition.

The burial ground of the fifth Chularatchamontri, the state counsellor on treasury and international trade, is set in an unadorned concrete house. "This looks much better compared to the past," said Mr Teeranand.

The burial ground was covered by a tin roof when he visited the area a decade ago.
Mr Teeranand said local history would soon disappear unless historians and the Fine Arts Department came to the rescue.

Member of Aliyinnuroy Mosque in Ayutthaya province Pradit Kanjan said local people wanted to preserve the sites but lacked expertise and money.

  "Knowledge is better than wealth because it protects you while you have to guard wealth. it decreases if you keep on spending it but the more you make use of knowledge ,the more it increases . what you get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you."MORE ..  


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