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Illegal trade threatens Lao heritage
Publication Date : 25-09-2013
The illegal trade in historical artefacts is posing a threat to Lao heritage as Buddha images continue to disappear from key tourist attractions across the country.
The World Heritage listed sites of Vat Phou Champassak and Luang Prabang have both been victims of artefact theft.
Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism's Heritage Department, Viengkeo Souksavatdy, said Tham Ting cave in Luang Prabang province had been recently targeted, with a number of images going missing.
“Illegal trading is an ongoing issue that all sectors need to address to protect our heritage,” he said.
“We have encouraged those in charge of Buddha images, especially at temples, to pay close attention to overseeing our heritage.”
Viengkeo said everything in a temple or heritage site had historical or cultural value and should not be removed from Laos.
Artefact trading has become widespread worldwide, particularly online, and relics often have a high value both inside and outside their country of origin.
On top of laws against the practice, officials have also appealed to the wider public to take responsibility for protecting national heritage.
Earlier this month a stone Buddha head was returned to Vat Phou after it was discovered in an antique shop in Japan. Vat Phou staff have as yet been unable to establish the recovered artefact's exact history.
The head was one of a number of objects to go missing from the area, causing possible structural damage to the site.
Thieves have also broken into a temple elsewhere in the province to steal images.