The struggle against the illegal trade of cultural treasures in Thailand has achieved a ground-breaking success. A collaborative operation led by the police force and the Fine Arts Department apprehended three persons believed to be central figures in this underground network. This covert operation resulted in the arrest of these key suspects and also in reclaiming around 1,000 historical antiquities. Digging deeper into the investigation unearthed a two-pronged operation, one group engaged in unearthing these priceless relics while the other was involved in their marketing.
The recovered artefacts are an amalgamation of bronze statues, tattoo equipment, silver currency, cowrie shells and fragments of jewellery, some of which have a history that spans back over a millennium. Unwitting buyers became the owners of these cultural treasures through social media platforms such as Facebook. The police, to ensure these items were genuine, assumed a covert identity and made a purchase of some of these artefacts. The Fine Arts Department was the next stage in this investigation, verifying the authenticity of the items bought undercover. Post-verification that these artefacts were indeed historical treasures, warrants of arrest came into immediate issuance.
Raids spanning nine locations across Chiang Mai, Lampang, Phayao and Sukhothai followed. Now these three key figures face charges related to the unlawful ownership and sale of historical antiques. Yet, the authorities are not sitting back complacently, the investigation is still in full swing, attempting to bring other contributors of this shady trade to light.
Phanombut Chantharachot, the Director-General of the Fine Arts Department, has made an appeal to the public to join in the battle against this unlawful trade. He has encouraged anybody who stumbles upon any suspected historical artefacts to report to either the Ministry of Culture or the Fine Arts Department. He has assured that whistle-blowers will garner a reward of one-third of the artefact’s verified worth. Additionally, the department is planning to join hands with law enforcement to educate the populace on the significance of protecting their cultural heritage. Also, rendering an insight about the legal measures which are in place to shield the heritage is a significant move designed to suppress the rise of the illegal antique trade. It ensures that the rich history and culture of Thailand remain intact for the coming generations.
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