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.