Trove of ancient artefacts may include rare imports

national November 29, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

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AMONG NUMEROUS ARTEFACTS found in the alleged secret treasure of police crime-buster Lt-General Pongpat Chayaphan are what appear to be an ancient deity image and many centuries-old Buddha images.



Fine Arts Department (FAD) director-general Bowornwej Rungrujee said yesterday that many of the statues and images were possibly brought to Thailand from a neighbouring country, as the department inventory showed that the same locally made items were all at their original places or museums.
He said the verification and authentication process of the approximately 20,000 items would begin on Monday and was expected to take about two months.
Private collectors were forbidden from owning many of the items, he said, adding that violators faced a maximum five-year prison term and/or a maximum fine of Bt500,000.
Requests to inspect the items to see if they had been stolen can be made at the FAD’s office at the National Museum.
Certain items, if found to be authentic, might be returned their countries of origin.
Bowornwej said the items would be arranged in categories and protected by 
various laws. 
In the meantime, he said the items with less value would be kept at the FAD’s warehouse in Pathum Thani, while items with high value would be held by the Metropolitan Police Bureau. They would be sorted according to their material, era or the year of their production, and paintings. 
Bowornwej said FAD experts would be aided in the verification and authentication process by the Anti-Money Laundering Office, police and soldiers, all of whom would be issued ad hoc identity cards to discourage stealing and make tracing items easier if they were lost.
Police and soldiers yesterday raided an antique shop off Chaeng Wattana Road in northern Bangkok and seized a number of items suspected of being bought from Pongpat, the former Central Investigation Bureau chief.