Tourist returns stolen bricks to Thai temple

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via Deutche Welle, 05 February 2018: Tourist steals bricks from Ayutthaya, suffers an ‘unpeaceful’ life, returns them by mail.

An envelope containing three bricks believed to be centuries old and a note in Thai was sent to the Tourism Authority of Thailand last week, said Panupong Paengkul, a tourism official in the ancient city of Ayutthaya where the bricks were reportedly stolen from. “The note indicated that the bricks should be returned to any temple in Ayutthaya because the sender had not lived a peaceful life since, but it didn’t elaborate on what had really happened,” Panupong said. “The note was written in Thai. I suspect it was translated by Google,” he added, declining to reveal the name and nationality of the sender.

Source: Tourist returns stolen bricks to Thai temple | Deutche Welle

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Bodies of second world war sailors in Java sea ‘dumped in mass grave’

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via the Guardian, 22 January 2018:

The Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Exeter sank after the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942. Photograph: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

The Royal Navy heavy cruiser HMS Exeter sank after the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942. Photograph: US Navy Naval History and Heritage Command

Illegal metal scavengers accused of disposing of remains from British and Dutch warships

Source: Bodies of second world war sailors in Java sea ‘dumped in mass grave’

The race to save up to 50 shipwrecks from looters in Southeast Asia

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via The Conversation, 16 November 2017:

More than 48 shipwrecks have been illicitly salvaged – and the figure may be much higher. Museums can play a key role in the protection of these wrecks, alongside strategic recovery and legislative steps.

Source: The race to save up to 50 shipwrecks from looters in Southeast Asia

Massive grave robbing in Southeast Asian seas

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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.

Source: The world’s biggest grave robbery: Asia’s disappearing WWII shipwrecks – The Guardian

The many lives of André Malraux

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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.

Source: The many lives of André Malraux | Apollo Magazine

A Growing Archaeological Looting Network Between Thailand and Myanmar

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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.

Cost of Trinkets: A Growing Archaeological Looting Network Between Thailand and Myanmar | Tea Circle

Sunken Australian warship HMAS Perth ransacked by illegal scavengers

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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.

Source: Sunken Australian warship HMAS Perth ransacked by illegal scavengers | Australia news | The Guardian