International forum tackles trafficking of cultural heritage

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BANGKOK, Nov 20 — Protection and preservation of Asia’s priceless cultural heritage is the focus of a UNESCO-sponsored international forum involving government officials, historians, archaeologists from across the region which ends tomorrow.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s international forum focusing on the trafficking of cultural heritage across South East Asia countries opened yesterday at the Marriott Hotel in Sukhumvit, near UNESCO’s Thailand headquarters.

Entitled “Sub-regional Symposium for the Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in South East Asia,” the November 19-21 forum aims to counter the illicit cultural heritage trade by leading the international community to implement serious preventive and protection measures.

UNESCO’s instrument on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, known as the 1970 Convention, Dr Gwang Jo Kim, UNESCO Bangkok director said that the fight can’t be effective unless there is a global effort and countries act beyond their own borders to stop the flow of illicit trafficking of unique and often irreplaceable cultural patrimony.

However, only Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar have ratified the 1970 Convention out of 127 State Parties.

Thailand, which only this week received the return of looted treasures from the United States, is not a signatory to the convention.

Illicit trafficking of cultural heritage is a transnational crime affecting each nation’s international cooperation and relationships when antiquities are wrongfully removed and appear in another countries, said Bovornvate Rungrujee, director-general of Thailand’s Fine Arts Department

Thailand’s stance on ratification is in process and must be further researched.

The symposium is being held for the first time in South East Asia by UNESCO to marshal efforts to combat the illicit trade in cultural heritage throughout the Asia-Pacific region.