Hands off our heritage

lifestyle November 17, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

4,362 Viewed

An upcoming Unesco forum aims to target illicit trade of artefacts in Southeast Asia

Heritage enforcement professionals, art market dealers and legal workers from 11 Southeast Asian nations will join international experts from Unesco, Interpol, the World Customs Organisation, Unidroit,, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Bangkok from Wednesday to discuss and plan strategies to counter the looting and sale of cultural artefacts in the region.
Long recognised as a hotbed for the looting and illicit trade of cultural heritage, this Southeast Asian blight directly threatens efforts to preserve the rich histories and traditions of the sub-region. 
Participants will share both the challenges and achievements in combating this illicit trade in Southeast Asia, review efforts to further international cooperation and outline restitution strategies during the “Sub-regional Symposium for the Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in Southeast Asia” being held at the Bangkok Marriott Hotel from Wednesday to Friday .
The symposium is part of a series organised by Unesco to marshal efforts to combat the illicit trade in cultural heritage throughout the Asia-Pacific region. It follows on from a similar meeting held in Kathmandu last December, which looked at this issue from a South Asian perspective. 
A major area of focus of the symposium will be the implementation of the two major international frameworks aimed at combating the trade in stolen and illicitly exported cultural artefacts: Unesco’s Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (the 1970 Convention) and the 1995 Unidroit Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exporter Cultural Objects (the Unidroit Convention). 
In Southeast Asia, only Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam have ratified the 1970 Convention, while to date Cambodia is the only nation to have ratified the Unidroit Convention.
The 1970 Convention grew out of a pressing need to respond to a troubling trend in the late 1960s that saw cultural artefacts looted or illicitly smuggled out of countries turn up in private collections or natural museums either illegally or with their origins obscured. The Convention commits signatories to instituting preventative measures to combat the trend, outline provisions for restitution and strengthening international cooperation. 
This will be the first forum of its kind held by UNESCO to focus specifically on Southeast Asia. As such, it offers an ideal opportunity to raise public awareness on the illicit trafficking of cultural items and is sure to trigger action and closer cooperation in the field. 
Key speakers include Unesco Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim, Thai Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat and the director-general of Thailand’s Fine Arts Department, Bovornvate Rungruji. 
The symposium will be held from Wednesday to Friday at the Bangkok Marriott Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 57.
Registration starts at 9am on Wednesday.
Members of the press are welcome. They should register their interest during working hours today by contacting Montakarn Suvanatap by mail at m.suvanatap@unesco.org.
For more information about the symposium, contact Noel Boivin at n.boivin@unesco.org.
Find out more about the 1970 and 1995 Conventions at www.Unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/illicit-trafficking-of-cultural-property/1970-convention/