Governor Sounds Warning Over Illegal Ox Cart Sales

Aging wooden ox carts belonging to Cambodian farmers are becoming decorative set pieces in Thailand’s hotels and restaurants as Thai businessmen, possibly ignorant of the carts’ importance to Cambodia’s heritage, are buying and smuggling cart parts out of Cambodia’s northwest regions.

Oddar Meanchey pro­vincial Gov­­ernor Long Sarin, said on Wednes­­­day that villagers sold the axles and spokes from about 50 ox carts to Thai businessmen in April, even though the sale and trans­port of ox carts across international borders is illegal.

Officials have since put a halt to the sales, Long Sarin said. Ban­teay Meanchey provincial Second Deputy Governor Nhiek Kim Chhun said his province also has be­gun enforcing the ban.

Ox carts have been built in the same fashion since the days of the Ankgor empire, when they were used for transport during war. The Bayon temple in Siem Reap has carvings of  ox carts.

Oung Von, director of the Department of Heritage Con­ser­vation at the Ministry of Fine Arts and Culture, said that unless the illegal trade is completely shut down, demand among international art collectors could in­crease. He asked for tougher en­forcement and a public education campaign. “I personally think it is discouraging to our ancestors that an­cient objects are sold to other countries,” he said.

Thai businessmen also bought old rattan-made baskets and lacquer baskets, Oung Von said. “If these items are used as decorations in Thai hotels and restaurants, then it means it belongs to their country,” he said. “But these items are just as much our heritage as Angkor Wat.”

Officials say the looting of artifacts from Cambodia’s Ang­korian temples, a problem since the mid-1980s, has declined in re­cent months. But the raiding of pre­his­toric cemeteries in the northwest continues. Villagers in Phum Snay village, Preah Net­preah district in Banteay Mean­chey province still scavenge pots from a cemetery discovered there.

in March 2000, Oung Von said.


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