via The Conversation, 16 November 2017:
via The Guardian, 03 November 2017: 40 shipwrecks, mostly war graves, in Southeast Asian waters have been found to be illegally scavenged at unprecedented rates.
Dozens of warships believed to contain the remains of thousands of British, American, Australian, Dutch and Japanese servicemen from the second world war have been illegally ripped apart by salvage divers, the Guardian can reveal.
An analysis of ships discovered by wreck divers and naval historians has found that up to 40 second world war-era vessels have already been partially or completely destroyed. Their hulls might have contained the corpses of 4,500 crew.
Governments fear other unmarked graves are at risk of being desecrated. Hundreds more ships – mostly Japanese vessels that could contain the war graves of tens of thousands of crew killed during the war – remain on the seabed.
Featuring an interview with Tess Davis
The Looting of Cambodian Antiquities
via Apollo Magazine, 26 August 2017: A short biography of André Malraux, a Frenchman who was convicted of looting antiquities from Cambodia – from Banteay Srei! – and eventually became the French Minister of Culture! For more of his dastardly exploits in Cambodia, you should also check out this lecture by Dr Lia Genovese which was delivered at the Siam Society earlier this year.
In 1923 André Malraux (1901–76) was a young dandy with few achievements to his name, but he was already circulating in Parisian high society on the strength of his personality. To his new wife Clara Goldschmidt, he suggested an adventure in the Far East, which would allow them ‘to live to our standards, at least for a few years’. And so the young couple set off for what was then Indochina, travelling along the Mekong Delta to Cambodia, and the 10th-century Hindu temple Banteay Srei in Angkor, where Malraux and his old school friend Louis Chevasson walked in as curious tourists and walked out with Khmer-era sculptures under their arms. They pried them loose from the temples using chisels and picks with a plan to sell the stolen goods on the art markets in London or New York. But it was foiled before they could return to Europe. The French colonial police promptly arrested the pair and put them on trial in Phnom Penh. Malraux received a three-year prison sentence and Chevasson 18 months.
via Tea Circle: Oxford DPhil Candidate Phacharaphorn Phanomvan discusses the emergence of small scale looting of antiquities in Myanmar and Thailand, particularly on how small antiquities like beads are thought to be desirable in the Thai market.
A heavy burden is placed upon governments of emerging economies to police looters and track down lost artefacts. These efforts would be better diverted towards addressing the demand side of the market, like sellers and collectors. At the same time, archaeologists should strive to develop an engagement approach with local communities and use heritage sites, even smaller ones, to develop alternative income and incentives. An increasing amount of grant funding for excavations now contains preferences for projects that can help develop local communities such as the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) funding for initiatives in Latin America and Cambodia. The Myanmar Archaeological Association (MMA) has started working with communities in Bagan and Pyu sites to encourage public awareness and develop local cultural management organisations for planning and resisting looting among villagers. These local efforts will need more funding and capacity building to expand towards sites outside Burman historical attention.
Most archaeologists agree that urban development, agricultural practice, and looting have extensively destroyed Thailand’s archaeological heritage. I write this in the hope that some efforts could be diverted towards containing ‘trinket’ collection trends among the growing middle class that have led to a very widespread and destructive small-scale looting practice. However, in the long term, it is necessary to develop a further understanding of the effectiveness of law enforcement on small-scale looting. To minimise looting, communities need to be offered better alternative careers that can potentially involve heritage development.
The Guardian, 05 June 2017:
One of Australia’s most treasured second world war warships has been illegally salvaged for metal, devastating the war grave of more than 300 sailors, maritime archaeologists say.
An Australian-Indonesian expedition conducted a dive on the wreck of HMAS Perth, which sank in 1942 following a fierce battle against the Japanese navy off the north-west tip of Java.
Kevin Sumption, the director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, said: “It is with profound regret we advise that our joint maritime archaeologist diving team has discovered sections of the Perth missing. Interim reports indicate only approximately 40% of the vessel remaining.
The Maritime Executive, 08 May 2017: The Malaysian and Indonesian authorities have detained the MV Chuan Hong 68 and her crew, a vessel which is believed to be illegally looting shipwrecks (including war graves) in Indonesian and Malaysian waters.
MV Chuan Hong
Somebody has been stealing warships from Southeast Asian waters – more specifically, sunken warships, which are prized for their scrap metal value. Indonesian authorities now believe that they have caught one of the perpetrators: they allege that the 8,000 gt Chinese grab dredger Chuan Hong 68 was responsible for illegally scavenging the wrecks of the pre-WWII Japanese destroyer Sagiri, plus the passenger vessels Hiyoshi Maru and Katori Maru, the steamship Igara and the tanker Seven Skies.
It is the second time that maritime authorities have caught the Chuan Hong 68 in as many months. On April 20, the Indonesian Navy detained her in the waters off Natuna in the Riau Islands on the suspicion that she was engaged in illegal dredging. She escaped on April 22 and fled to Malaysia, where she was detained once again by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
Indonesia seeks Interpol’s help to find dredger (Straits Times, 23 April 2017)
The Thieves Who Steal Sunken Warships, Right Down to the Bolts (Outside Online, 02 May 2017)
Indonesia Detains Chinese-flagged Dredger for Looting Sunken Treasure (Netral, 07 May 2017)
The Observer, 12 April 2017: “I went into it because I thought I might be able to afford to buy what I thought was a copy of a Cambodian statue in the window. Then the man named a price which was absolutely incredible. I said, ‘Do you mean that this piece is authentic?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Then you are a thief.’”
A piece by Tess Davis of the Antiquities Coalition on the lessons we can learn from the looting situation in Cambodia and how it applies to world’s trouble spots today.
Cambodia’s story is a warning for the art world, but also for the international community. Over the past century, we’ve watched brutal regimes, extremists, and organized criminals all traffic in heritage to fund their activities. We’ve seen that trafficking is not just a side effect of armed conflict; it is a driver of violence. And we’ve learned that the illicit trade in heritage can far outlive the conflicts that created them, and that peace can, counterintuitively, open up new markets and buyers for antiquities.
Natali Pearson discusses the recent cases of underwater looting of World War II shipwrecks in Indonesia