via Khmer Times, 18 October 2017
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.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Ban Chiang culture in Thailand’s Udon Thani province. This article from the Isaan Record features and interview with Dr Joyce White and her involvement with the site.
The legacy of Ban Chiang: Archaeologist Joyce White talks about Thailand’s most famous archaeological site
The Isaan Record, 20 April 2016
Fifty years ago in August, in the village of Ban Chiang near Udon Thani, a visiting American student named Stephen Young tripped over an exposed tree root and fell atop the rim of a clay pot partly buried in the village path. His tumble set into motion two joint Thai-American archaeological expeditions to Ban Chiang in the 1970s that exposed the extent of prehistoric burial sites beneath the village, sites filled with thousands of pieces of pottery and metalwork buried as grave goods by Neolithic and Bronze Age peoples at different times between 4200 and 1800 years ago. The Ban Chiang finds revealed unexpected technological and artistic development among the peoples of the region and challenged prevailing ideas about the prehistory of Southeast Asia.
American archaeologist Dr. Joyce White is the Director of the Ban Chiang project at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia, USA, where she has studied the finds from Ban Chiang since 1976. She is an expert witness for the US Department of Justice in an ongoing antiquities trafficking case that in 2014 resulted in the return of many smuggled Ban Chiang items to Thailand.
Full story here.
A Cambodian official was caught smuggling three statues out of the country when he was checked by the customs officials at the Thai border.
Statues seized at border
Phnom Penh Post, 27 April 2015
Army Officer Smuggling Statues Into Thailand Caught at Border
Cambodia Daily, 27 April 2015
A military official was arrested in Thailand on Saturday after smuggling three statues across the border from Banteay Meanchey province in his car, officials said Sunday.
Prak Sa, chief of the Boeung Trakuon border checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district, said that Soeun Oeun, 49—an intelligence officer from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ Region 5 in Battambang province—was arrested at about 5 p.m., just after passing through screening on the Cambodian side of the checkpoint.
“We were careless with checking his car, in which he had hidden three ancient statues, but he was arrested by Thai border police,” Mr. Sa said. He said Mr. Oeun regularly went through the checkpoint in O’Beichoan commune to purchase food or gasoline in Thailand.
“The suspect goes back and forth every day,” he said, adding that Cambodian border police had never had reason to suspect nefarious activity.
Full story here.
Last week Unesco organised a symposium on the illicit trafficking of antiquities (which I will write a little bit more about in a later post), here is a news writeup on it, although it doesn’t actually mention the symposium itself, it quotes a number of speakers there.
SE Asian artefacts under threat from looters: UN
Channel NewsAsia, 21 November 2014
Over 500 pieces of ceramics, believed to be looted from the Ban Chiang archaeological site in Thailand have been returned to by the Bowers Museum in California.
‘Ban Chiang’ artefacts arrive from US
Bangkok Post, 02 September 2014
Thailand reclaims smuggled artefacts from California museum
The Hindu, 02 September 2014
A new study published in the British Journal of Criminology reveals the inner workings of a statue trafficking network in Cambodia and Thailand and sheds light on how the particular form of organised crime works.
Temple Looting in Cambodia: Anatomy of a Statue Trafficking Network
Simon Mackenzie and Tess Davis
British Journal of Criminology 2014, doi: 10.1093/bjc/azu038
New Evidence Ties Illegal Antiquities Trade to Terrorism, Violent Crime
National Geographic News, 13 June 2014
Thai authorities have arrested a French couple at a Cambodian border checkpoint for possessing what looks to be very old statues. The couple say that they were souvenirs bought at a market, and the artifacts are now at the Fine Arts Department for examination.
Couple arrested at Cambodian border with ancient relics
The Nation, 20 March 2012
A case where 80 gold artefacts were stolen from a museum in Yogyakarta have been referred to Interpol, as it is believed that the artefacts have been smuggled out of the country and sold.
Gold artefacts stolen; Interpol assistance requested
Jakarta Post, 21 January 2011
Pencurian Koleksi Emas Sonobudoyo Gelap
Kompas.com, 11 January 2011
(In Bahasa Indonesia)
The Phnom Penh Post has a short blurb about two men who were apprehended while trying to cross the border from Cambodia to Thailand. They were trying to cross with statues of a Vishnu and Lokesvara which was supposedly bought from a store in Siem Reap Province.