Readers may be interested in this talk by Phacharaphorn Phanomvan and Charlotte Galloway on 21 May 2021.
Plai Bat: Reclaiming Heritage, Social Media, and Modern Nationalism
The presentation looks closely at contemporary repatriation requests for objects looted from Plaibat in Thailand presently displayed in museums in the West. It traces recent developments in the repatriation issue where local activism and social media have shifted the balance for more democratising processes of restitution forwarded by the state government. The establishment of “Sam-nuk Sam-Roi Ong” (SSO) in Thailand by a group of local historians has generated a grassroots movement for advancing local and communal cultural identity in relation to the objects requested for return. And since heritage is considered an embodiment of a glorious past, local heritage ownership is an important aspiration for localised political, social, and economic developments, particularly those located in the peripheral regions such as north-eastern Thailand. Social media thus provides a powerful platform for local communities to bolster the quest for repatriating and owning artefacts.
Repatriation, Restitution and Myanmar
Myanmar’s more recent history has done little to support or protect the rich cultural heritage of the country. A troubled colonial rule then a military regime saw approaches to heritage management fall well behind international developments. In the last decade, during the transition to democracy, open engagement with contemporary approaches to protecting movable cultural heritage has been possible. Repatriation of cultural heritage is now occurring, but this can be complex when considering Buddhist objects which were donations to temples or monasteries and have no clear chain of ownership. Restitution may at times be an appropriate alternative. Apart from moral and legal arguments supporting repatriation or restitution, the current political situation brings yet more complexities to returning Myanmar’s heritage.