By PHATARAWADEE PHATARANAWIK
“The ministry’s ad hoc committee has called for the repatriation of 23 artefacts that originated in Thailand from leading US museums,” said Minister of Culture Veera Rojpojchanarat at a press conference yesterday at Bangkok’s National Museum.
“After a one-year investigation, the ministry’s urgent task aims to bring back five stone architectural artefacts, including two prominent 11th-century stone lintels from Prasat Nong Hong in Buri Ram and Prasat Khao Lon in Sa Kaew, which are currently in the permanent collections of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco,” Fine Art Department director Anan Chuchote said.
The 8th-Century bronze preaching Buddha statue called Avalokitesvara from Prasat Hin Khao Bat II in Buri Ram. It is currently in a permanent collection at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York. Photo courtesy of MET
There are also 18 Buddha statues and sculptures that are currently in permanent collections at leading museums, including New York’s Metropolitan Art Museum, the Asian Art Museum and Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California.
“One of masterpieces includes an eighth-century bronze preaching Buddha statue called Avalokitesvara from Prasat Hin Khao Bat II in Buri Ram. It is currently in a permanent collection at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York,” archaeologist Tanongsak Hanwong, a member of the ad hoc committee, told The Nation.
There are also 14 artefacts currently in the possession of the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii. These items include a prehistoric bell made of bronze and Buddha statues from the Dvaravati and Ayutthaya eras.
The US Department of Homeland Security has called for cooperation with Thailand to verify 69 other artefacts, all from the prehistoric age and believed to originate from Thailand, which are currently stored in museums in the United States.
There are also 13 prehistoric artefacts, including Baan Chiang pottery, owned by American collector Katherine Ayers-Mannix, who intends to return her collection to the Thai government.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry is in the process of verifying 10 more artefacts currently in the possession of the Norton Simon Museum in California.
Thailand has successfully called for the repatriation of heritage from the US in past decades.
In 2014, the US government returned more than 500 artefacts looted from Ban Chiang, originating from the prehistoric period, which were in possession of the Bowers Museum in Santa Anna, California.
That was the most significant return of ancient treasures since the Art Institute of Chicago returned the Narai stone lintel in 1988.
Meanwhile, Thailand also returned cultural heritage to neighbouring counties. In 2015, Thailand repatriated 16 Cambodian artefacts recovered from smugglers in 1999. In 2009, Thailand repatriated seven other sculptures from the same 1999 seizure.