Siem Reap Airport Confiscates Stolen Treasures

Siem Reap International Airport police on Monday presented the Min­i­stry of Culture with approximately 2,500 pieces of stone confiscated from tourists during 2005, an official said Wednesday.

The haul, weighing 192 kg and collected from visitors to Ang­kor, included 86 kg of laterite and 68 sculpted pieces, said Tu­on Phok, Angkor conservation dep­art­ment deputy chief.

According to Angkor-heritage dep­uty police Chief Nim Son, the num­ber was dramatically higher than in 2003, when 42 pieces of laterite, 69 other stones and seven pieces of ancient brick were confis­ca­ted.

Teruo Jinnai, country representative for the UN Educational, Scien­ti­fic and Cultural Organiza­tion, ap­plaud­­ed the policemen’s work.

How­ever, he said he suspects that many of the stones stopped at the border—and slipping through —are looted in other prov­inces.

“For example Banteay Mean­chey or Preah Vihear [prov­inces]—we don’t have heritage po­lice there,” he said.

Pointing out that one human-size stone would weigh almost half as much as the confiscated collection of thousands, Teruo Jinnai stressed that big and small stones of historical value should be protected.

“Regardless of the size, if it has cultural value or heritage value, they have to be protected,” he said.

Both Nim Son and Teruo Jinnai emphasized that Siem Reap is only one checkpoint among a myriad of ways to smuggle looted artifacts out of the country, many of which are much less protected.

“At other checkpoints by the bor­d­er, we do poorly at checking for small pieces of stone that visitors take as souvenirs,” Nim Som said.


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