Thai am­bas­sador look­ing into ‘smug­gled statue’ in Lon­don

The Nation - - AROUND THAILAND -

Thai­land’s am­bas­sador to the UK has been in­structed to con­tact the di­rec­tor of Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don’s School of Oriental and African Stud­ies (SOAS) over claims the pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion pos­sesses a 13th-cen­tury sculp­ture likely smug­gled from Thai­land, the For­eign Min­istry said yes­ter­day.

“The For­eign Min­istry is now in the process of ex­am­in­ing the case,” said Bu­sadee San­tip­i­taks, di­rec­tor- gen­eral of the Depart­ment of In­for­ma­tion and For­eign Min­istry spokesper­son. “The min­istry has as­signed Thai Am­bas­sador to the UK Pisanu Su­vana­jata to con­tact the SOAS di­rec­tor, Baroness Va­lerie Amos.”

The move came af­ter Thai me­dia this week re­vealed that SOAS scholar An­gela Chiu had ac­cused her school of ac­cept­ing the one-me­tre­tall Bud­dha statue that stands at the en­trance to its Brunei Gallery. It was gifted to the SOAS by Amer­i­can alumni Mary and Paul Slaw­son who re­port­edly bought it mi­nus doc­u­ments at­test­ing to its prove­nance some 30 years ago. On its web­site, the SOAS de­scribes the statue as “a de­light­ful 13th-cen­tury Lop­buri Bud­dha torso of Thai ori­gin”. It has de­nied any wrong­do­ing in ac­cept­ing the sculp­ture.

Bu­sadee added that Thai em­bassy of­fi­cials in Lon­don had also met with John Holling­worth, head of Gal­leries and Ex­hi­bi­tions at the SOAS. “He in­formed them that his team had checked with the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Mu­se­ums and found that the arte­fact is not on the ICOMs Red Lists of lost or vul­ner­a­ble art­works.”

The SOAS is pre­par­ing doc­u­ments and in­for­ma­tion on the statue for pre­sen­ta­tion to the Thai Em­bassy in Lon­don.

“The For­eign Min­istry will re­port again to the Cul­ture Min­istry’s Fine Art Depart­ment if and when we re­ceive more in­for­ma­tion on this is­sue,” Bu­sadee said.

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