UNESCO Sub-regional Symposium for the Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in South-East Asia

Bangkok, Thailand, 19-21 November 2014.
In recent years with the social-economic growth of the region, the rapid expansion of the art market, in particular through the internet has created a high demand for cultural objects thereby increasing the danger of illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts originating from countries that have insufficient preventive measures in place.

The symposium is being held in the context of the implementation of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, as well as of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects.This conference is part of a series of symposia benefiting the Asia-Pacific region. In December 2013, a similar symposium was held in Kathmandu, Nepal, for South Asian countries and in July 2015 another major event will take place in Port Vila, Vanuatu, focused on the protection of movable cultural heritage in the Pacific sub-region.

Only three out of the eleven countries invited have ratified the 1970 Convention; as far as the 1995 Convention is concerned, the only State Party present to the meeting is Cambodia, making the region still extremely vulnerable to illicit trade in cultural objects.

The three-day symposium in Bangkok will provide a platform for heritage managers, law enforcement professionals and art market experts from the concerned countries of South-East Asia, to discuss and establish strategies to reinforce measures against illicit trafficking of cultural objects. International experts from INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, UNIDROIT, UNODC, ICOM, and regional organizations are also attending. The symposium will highlight the issues faced by South-East Asian countries in the prevention of the illicit trafficking in cultural property, foster their knowledge base on recent achievements in this domain and outline restitution strategies and international cooperation. It is worth noting that it is the first time that UNESCO organizes such a meeting on this topic for South-East Asia in particular– hence its relevance to trigger enhanced actions in this field.

This symposium was made possible thanks to the generous contribution of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands.

See also