Sub-regional Symposium for he Fight Against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in South-East Asia
When: 19-21 November 2014
Where: Bangkok, Thailand
Who: UNESCO Bangkok
With supports of Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands
Contact: Mrs. Montakarn S. Kittipaisalsilp (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hosted by the UNESCO Bangkok office with financial support by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of The Netherlands, the sub-regional symposium gathered participants from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Timor-Leste, Thailand, Singapore and Viet Nam. International partners were invited from UNIDROIT, RILO-WE (WCO), Interpol, and UNODC. UNESCO staff attended from headquarters and field offices (Phnom Penh, Hanoi and Jakarta) alongside local participants from private museums, art galleries, heritage experts, local police, academics and students.
The overall objective of the Symposium was to address the challenges and threats made to the region through the illicit trafficking of movable cultural heritage - whilst demonstrating the regional benefits for South-East Asian countries to ratify and implement the 1970 and 1995 Convention. The alarmingly low levels of ratification for both Conventions within the region, and also in East Africa and the Pacific too, has meant that globally there are legal ‘gaps’ where international treaties are not able to provide adequate protection. This also increases the risk for other countries too. These ‘gaps’ become attractive to traffickers as indicated by a significantly higher volume of illicit trading of cultural property in these areas.
The first session comprised of 12 country reports which provided an overview of the various challenges and threats being faced. The following session discussed preventative measures, such as the importance of documenting collections, capacity-building, including outreach and educational tools. The final day focused on legal and operational tools as well as fostering regional and international cooperation and information sharing.
Throughout the Symposium several suggestions and ideas were given for regional and national activities. A feedback form requesting proposals for follow-up activities was sent to each country at the end of the Symposium. Analysis of the data ranked which proposed activities were national priorities, however, on a regional level the data indicated that awareness raising campaigns for local communities was the highest priority, closely followed by capacity-building training for customs officials, awareness raising efforts aimed at tourists and further networking through a regional conference.