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MEDIA ADVISORY: Forum to Target Illicit Trade of Cultural Heritage in Southeast Asia

UNESCO to host three-day symposium with INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, UNIDROIT, ICOM and UNODC on looting, sale of artefacts 

BANGKOK, 14 NOVEMBER, 2014 – Southeast Asia is a hotbed for the looting and illicit trade of cultural heritage, a blight that directly threatens efforts to preserve the rich histories and traditions of this sub-region.  

Sharing challenges and achievements in combating this illicit trade in Southeast Asia as well as efforts to further international cooperation and outlining restitution strategies will be the focus of the upcoming “Sub-regional Symposium for the Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in Southeast Asia.

This will be the first forum of its kind held by UNESCO to focus specifically on Southeast Asia. As such, it offers an ideal opportunity to raise public awareness on the illicit trafficking of cultural items and is sure to trigger action and closer cooperation in the field.

WHAT: Sub-regional Symposium for the Fight against Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Heritage in Southeast Asia

WHEN: The symposium will be held from 19–21 November 2014.

Opening ceremony: 9.30-10.30, 19 November. (Registration begins at 9am.)

WHERE: Bangkok Marriott Hotel, Sukhumvit Soi 57

WHO: UNESCO Bangkok Director Gwang-Jo Kim, Thai Culture Minister HE Vira Rojpojchanarat and Bovornvate Rungruji, Director-General of the Fine Arts Department will deliver remarks at the opening ceremony.

The three-day symposium will be attended by heritage enforcement professionals, art market dealers and legal workers from 11 Southeast Asian nations as well as international experts from UNESCO, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, UNIDROIT, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

MEDIA: Seating has been reserved for members of the media. Those interested in attending the opening and any of the sessions are asked to please RSVP before Monday 17 November by contacting Ms. Montakarn Suvanatap, Communication and Programme Assistant for Culture Sector (

Further media queries can be directed to Noel Boivin, UNESCO Bangkok Media and Communications Officer (



This symposium is part of a series organized by UNESCO to marshal efforts to combat the illicit trade in cultural heritage throughout the Asia-Pacific region. It follows on from a similar symposium held in Kathmandu, Nepal, in December of last year that focused on South Asian Countries.

A major area of focus of the symposium will be the implementation of the two major international frameworks aimed at combating the trade in stolen and illicitly exported cultural artefacts: UNESCO’s Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (the 1970 Convention) and the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exporter Cultural Objects (the UNIDROIT Convention).

In Southeast Asia, only Cambodia, Myanmar and Viet Nam have ratified the 1970 Convention, while only Cambodia has ratified the UNIDROIT Convention.

The 1970 Convention grew out of a pressing need to respond to a troubling trend in the late 1960s that saw cultural artefacts looted or illicitly smuggled out of countries turn up in private collections or natural museums either illegally or with their origins obscured. The Convention commits signatories to instituting preventative measures to combat the trend, outline provisions for restitution and strengthening international cooperation.

Awareness raising video for Southeast Asia:

More on the 1970 Convention:

The UNIDROIT Convention complements the 1970 Convention by encouraging states to commit to a uniform method of restitution. Thus far Cambodia remains the sole Southeast Asian signatory to the Convention.

More on the UNIDROIT Convention: