Professor Srisakra Vallibhotama is one of the leading anthropologists and archaeologists in Thailand and the whole of Southeast Asia. Through his comprehensive approach combining expertise in anthropology, archaeology, history and folklore, and with a local approach to historiography, he has presented Thai history in an entirely new light.
In his research, he criticized the prevalent academic attitude of uncritical acceptance of Western scholarship, and expressed his doubts about the conventional interpretation of Thai history which mainly followed the national and royal chronicles. Instead of focusing exclusively on the nation-centered history, he used the results of his energetic field surveys and investigations into local history. These led him to a new perspective on Thai history. His research has covered many areas, but particular mention should be made of his archaeological survey of prehistoric Northeast Thailand, and his research into Thai ancient cities and states. In the former project, having made thorough inventories during field surveys, he argued the significance of agriculture, salt and iron, and demonstrated that religious worship had existed there from prehistoric times by using the Sema Stone (peculiar to the Northeastern part of Thailand) as evidence. These findings refuted the old image of ‘the poor Northeast’, and gave a new profile to the region as ‘the once rich Northeast’.
Some of the archaeological data that Professor Srisakra collected from this region has been made available through the internet, and has received international acclaim. In the latter project, by making full use of aerial photography, he uncovered the urban planning and structures of several ancient cities, including the first city state, Dvaravati, and those of the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya dynasties. He argued for a strong influence of Southeast Asian trade on the establishment of cities and states in ancient Thailand.
After graduating from Chulalongkorn University, Professor Srisakra studied anthropology at the University of Western Australia. He engaged in teaching and research at the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Archaeology at Silpakorn University, while holding important positions in a number of academic/research institutions. He made many crucial recommendations to the government when he chaired several committees working for cultural property conservation, including one for the Sukhothai Historical Park Development Project, for which he was the Chief Social Scientist. He has been an ‘active’ scholar, as is shown in his efforts to publicize academic research to a wider public as editor of “Muang Boran Journal”, a leading quarterly on Thai archaeology and history.
His research and his other activities, founded upon a unique anthropological point of view which is solidly based on archaeological data, has successfully reconstructed a part of Thai and Southeast Asian histories, focusing on local history and the environment. For his significant achievement, Professor Srisakra fully deserves the Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes.