Asia fights to stem loss of cultural treasures

This feature from the Myanmar Times talks about the illegal antiquities trade in Southeast Asia, particularly how antiques from all over Southeast Asia exit this region through Thailand (and Singapore, too). The underground demand for such artefacts have led to tighter (if somewhat hard to enforce and control) laws on the export of artefacts, but also to a secondary market in manufacturing antiques for sale, to be passed off as the real thing!

Asia fights to stem loss of cultural treasures
The Myanmar Times, 22 December 2008

“HISTORY for sale” reads the caption, below a Myanmar sandstone figure from the 16th century. Under the headline “The thrill is in the hunt”, the article – published last year in a major Australian newspaper – tells readers how to find “bargain antiques” in Bangkok “without being had” by dealers.

“Bangkok is a clearing house for treasures from all parts of Indochina – Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It’s where all the very finest art works go,” the article gushes.

However, it is not mentioned once that taking these objects out of their country of origin is usually illegal. The emphasis in this article is how buyers can avoid being “jipped”, rather than whether they are stealing a country’s heritage.


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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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