This article discusses cultural heritage from the viewpoint of local society. In doing so, the article presents a concept that is different from that created by the nationstate, or the heritage protection framework led by national governments. In Thailand, from the premodern period to the present, there has been an inherent value and a unique relationship between “cultural heritage” and the people, which has contributed to forming a unique worldview as part of people’s life. As a matter of course, these practitioners have been neither the ruling class of royalty and bureaucrats, nor the intelligentsia, but the general people – the “successor of local history” (Haga 329). Local heritage in Thailand has been an ntegral part of people’s lives and is interrelated with animistic beliefs and Theravada Buddhism, of which more than 90% of the population in Thailand follows, and therefore, continues to play an important role as people’s foothold in an increasingly fluid society.
In order to understand the relationship between cultural heritage and local communities, two questions are raised. Firstly, what does cultural heritage mean for people within their own communities, and what kind of connections can be identified? Secondly, is there any independent movement of local communities based on interpretations that differ from the central government? In accordance with the issues, the article begins by summarizing the historical and cultural features of northern Thailand and then moves to examine a case study from Phrae province.
Keywords: local heritage in Thailand, historical and cultural features of northern Thailand, relationships between cultural heritage and local communities, conservation of cultural heritage
(Published in Rian Thai: International Journal of Thai Studies, Volume 11/2018 (Number 2), Page 57-75)