Xieng Khuang prepares for Plain of Jars World Heritage inspection

XIENG KHUANG (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Minister of Informational, Culture and Tourism, Prof.  Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, who also chairs the National Commission for World Heritage, is meeting with ministry and provincial officials to discuss progress in heritage listing the Plain of Jars.

The two-day meeting which concludes today is discussing final preparations for an inspection of the Plain of Jars at the end of this month by International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) experts which is the last step for UNESCO in evaluating the area as a World Heritage site.

Laos had been working for twenty years for the Plain of Jars, locally known as Thong Hai Hin, in Xieng Khuang province to become a World Heritage Site before UNESCO received official nomination documentation in May this year.

Minister Bosengkham said that final arrangements were being made for meetings with the ICOMOS experts.

“Thong Hai Hin in Xieng Khuang will become a famous tourist attraction for Laos following World Heritage listing,” he said.

After meeting with the National Heritage Commission in Xieng Khuang this month, the ICOMOS experts will carry out an on-site investigation at the Plain of Jars.

According to a report tabled in the meeting, ICOMOS experts will then write a report which they will present at the UNESCO meeting in Azerbaijan of June or July next year to support the Plain of Jars elevation to World Heritage status.

An official, who asked not to be named, said that while many countries are members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Laos only needed the support of five countries for Thong Hai Hin to be added to the list. He expected China, Vietnam, Japan, Myanmar, Australia and other countries to vote for Laos.

The Plain of Jars World Heritage proposal contains 11 separate sites located in the province’s four districts of Paek, Phaxay, Phoukoud and Kham.

In fact, Thong Hai Hin contains about 80 distinct sites but Laos is including only 11 areas as they have the highest concentration of jars.

Some are also found in Phoukhoun district of Luang Prabang province which borders with Xieng Khuang.

Laos has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites with the ancient city of Luang Prabang nominated in 1995 and Vat Phou temple complex in Champassak province, which was nominated in 2001.

The ministry is also currently working on a submission to UNESCO for the Hin Namno National Protected Area otherwise known as the Stone Formation Forest Karst in Khammuan province.

The area is noted for its unique biodiversity and breath-taking views. If successfully nominated, it would become the nation’s fourth World Heritage Site.