Sunday, April 24, 2011

Statue Thievery Spreads to Bangladesh

Just a quick post on a new incident of statue and idol thefts and attempted smuggling, this time out of Bangladesh, according to a recent article in the Daily Star (here). All involved were arrested in Bangladesh's main airport in Dhaka after being busted by customs before they could board flights to Bangkok. According to the articles, many of the confiscated statues were made of touchstone, metal or terracotta and depicted Hindu motifs. Amazingly, it appears that the guilty individuals were attempting to transport these bulky items in their luggage, although it's not clear if "luggage" in this case would actually refer to shipping crates.

A related article published in the Financial Express (another apparently prominent newspaper out of Bangladesh) came to my attention (once again) through Museum Security Network, and details that events of this nature have an active recent history in the country. It now seems that museums, and even archaeological sites exposed through planned excavation or development projects, are being deliberately targeted. Despite the somewhat strident tone of nationalistic rhetoric (in my opinion), the article makes a fair point that no nation should have to sit by and watch its heritage sites crumble, its archaeological sites be threatened by poorly planned development, and its movable cultural heritage be siphoned off, due to both local corruption and international avarice. Perhaps India, Nepal and Bangladesh can now work together on increasing enforcement and improving legislation to restrict cross-border trade in what is now apparently a subcontinent-wide problem. At the very least this should reduce the numbers of South Asian antiquities available to unscrupulous dealers and collectors overseas.

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