Thai police catch Buddha statue thieves

The Thai police have caught a gang of thieves responsible for the thefts of a number of Buddha statues in Prachin Buri Province, including the loss of one 500-year-old statue.

Ancient Buddha statue theft
Bangkok Post, 28 March 2011

Pol Col Napanwut Polki was in a determined mood after burglars stole a precious Buddha statue from his home town in Prachin Buri province.

The superintendent of Provincial Police Region 3 told himself he would do whatever it took to bring Luang Phor Chiang Saen back to Wat Makok Simaram, the temple in Muang district from where the 500-year-old statue was stolen.

The bronze statue with the Marawichai (victory over evil) posture was made in the style representative of northern Thailand’s Lanna kingdom – also known as Chiang Saen art – whose Buddha statues have unique characteristics, including a lotus-like topknot.

Pol Col Napanwut’s task began when the Royal Thai Police issued a nationwide call for officers to look for Luang Phor Chiang Saen, which was stolen on Jan 15.

I was not sure if many police officers would take this issue seriously,” said Pol Col Napanwut, but he was to be pleasantly surprised

His team started their investigation in early March and closed the case just over a week later when they made two arrests and seized more than 50 stolen items, including Luang Phor Chiang Saen.


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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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