Ancient Thai temples vandalised

Statues from the temple of Phanom Rung in Buri Ram province of Thailand have been defaced by vandals.

Prasat Phanom Rung, Bangkok Post 21 May 2008

Vandals damage ancient monuments
Bangkok Post, 21 May 2008

Vandals damage ancient monuments

BURI RAM : Ancient statues at the Phanom Rung stone temple ruins in Buri Ram have been badly damaged and the Shiva Linga stone has been moved off its plinth.

Dusit Thummaporn, chief of the Phanom Rung Historical Park in Chalerm Phrakiat district, said the heads of eleven statues of Nagas, mythical serpent-like animals, at the stairs to the ancient temple had been broken off.

The statue of the sacred cow of the Hindu god Shiva, two statues of Singha, a mythical lion-like beast, and the statue of the guardian deity at the entrance were also damaged.

In addition, the Shiva Linga stone, a symbol of Shiva, was moved off its plinth and placed in the middle of the main building of the temple. A glass of water and three cigarettes were found at the Naga stairs.

Deputy provincial police chief Wichai Sangprapai said the vandalism may be linked to conflicts among people looking after the ancient site. It could also be the work of mentally disturbed people or those who were disgruntled because they were not allowed to use the ancient site to perform rituals to bless Jatukarm amulets, Pol Col Wichai said.

Meanwhile, in Rayong’s Klaeng district, the sculptured flute missing from the Phra Apaimanee statue was found at a rubbish dump yesterday. The flute disappeared in the early hours of Monday, causing outrage among locals.

The statue is in the memorial park built in honour of Sunthorn Phu (1786-1855), Thailand’s great poet, who was declared a world poet by the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 1986.

Phra Apaimanee is a character from one of Sunthorn Phu’s literary works, also titled Phra Apaimanee.

Klaeng district is believed to be the birthplace of Sunthorn Phu. A monument to the poet, along with statues of characters from his works, was erected there.

Ban Kram police station chief Pol Lt-Col Surapong Muenpaopong said the replica flute was in safe-keeping at the police station.

Witnesses said they saw two people riding a motorcycle around the memorial park before the flute disappeared.

In Ayutthaya, governor Preecha Kamolbutr feared that the thefts of ancient items in the province could affect the reputation of Thailand’s old capital.

Rampant theft has triggered concern that Unesco may consider delisting Ayutthaya as a world heritage site.

Mr Preecha said the thieves were not average gangsters but ”professionals” skilled in stealing precious items and might have been paid to steal the artifacts.

It is a top priority for all agencies and local people to work together to combat the thieves, the governor said.

An urgent meeting would be held to work out measures to protect the ancient artifacts, he said.

Related Books:
Uncovering Southeast Asia’s Past: Selected Papers from the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Southeast Asian Archaeologists
Phanom Rung: Prasat hin sichomphu bon yot phukhaofai : thipphayawiman fim khong manutnarmit hæng dieo nai Prathet Thai = Prasat Khao Phnom Rung

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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