Myanmar helpless against illegal trade of antique cultural objects

Myanmar is helpless against the illegal trade of Myanmar antique cultural objects, which are sold brazenly in nearby Thailand and other countries, an archeologist lecturer from the University of Yangon. U Saw Tun Lin told a meeting of Myanmar Archeology Association that antique cultural objects from ancient civilizations in the country are traded brazenly in the black market, including on social media.

“The (foreign) governments couldn’t take action against the black market for antique cultural objects,” he said. “Even the crimes and punishment under the law are not harsh. Despite the enactment of the law, it was ineffective. Right now, we are seeing people selling these things out in the open even on social media.” Recently, even police officers in Magwe region put their lives on the line to prevent gangs from stealing ancient Pyu beads, which command good price in the black market.

Although Myanmar has signed the 1970 UNESCO and 1995 Unidroit international conventions on antique cultural objects, there are both strengths and flaws in the said pacts that black market crime gangs exploit. “Many countries haven’t signed the Convention and the countries where Myanmar’s antique cultural objects end up like in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Thailand, Japan, and Singapore, which are not signatories to the pact,” U Saw Tun Lin said.

“So, we won’t get the objects back if they end up in these countries. Most of Myanmar’s antique cultural objects are being sold from Thailand,” he said. An agreement for returning the cultural heritage is needed between Myanmar and Thailand, said Myanmar Archeology Association’s Chair Daw Ohmar Myo. Comprised of three cities—Halin, Beikthano, and Sri Ksetra—the Ancient Pyu Cities is the first cluster of cities to be featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites for Myanmar.

There is also the Mrauk-U ancient heritage zone in Rakhine State and the Bagan ancient cultural zone in Mandalay, where artifacts from ancient Myanmar civilizations can be found.

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Source: Myanmar Times

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