Accepted Paper:

The heritage of others - who cares? Attitudes towards Thai laws concerning the illicit trafficking of foreign cultural heritage  


Abhirada Komoot

Paper Short Abstract:


Paper long abstract:

Southeast Asia is a region in which rich and diverse cultural heritage can be found throughout the region. Due to various factors, an enormous amount of cultural property has been removed from its country of origin and made its way to foreign antiquities markets both within and outside the region. The smuggling of cultural property can be considered a national crisis, on par with other organised crimes (e.g. human and drug trafficking). Therefore, countries are highly encouraged to construe protective measures to more effectively tackle this issue. During a recent UNESCO symposium in Bangkok, delegates from Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, presented evidence indicating that most countries already have legal measures in place to hypothetically deter the illegal plundering of their cultural heritage.

In the case of Thailand, besides being a source country, it can also be seen as a transit country where the cultural property of others has been illicitly located. However, it does not seem very clear to what extent foreign cultural objects which were illegally traded can be protected by national laws, for example, the illicit trafficking of Khmer statues in Thailand. This paper presents results of a study on the attitudes of the Thai government towards the cultural heritage of others in terms of relevant national legislation. Especially in light of another high-profile smuggling ring and subsequent repatriation efforts, it is hoped that this analysis can enhance international collaboration and highlight useful points for further discussion.

Panel P20
The antiquities trade in Southeast Asia: new solutions to an old problem