Thai thieves target Buddha statues for home decor market

Phra Athikansadaeng Premasilo, a 77-year-old abbot of Wat Dong Wai, inspects beheaded Buddha statues. Thai police are promising to get tough on criminals who steal historic artifacts.
Photograph by: Sukree Sukplang, Reuters, Reuters
Thai police promised to get tough with criminals who steal historic artifacts for the international market after a spate of thefts from the old capital of Ayuthaya outraged the public in the Buddhist country.

At least 20 heads of Buddha statues have recently been reported stolen from temples in the World Heritage province of Ayuthaya, which was the kingdom’s capital from 1350 to 1767, said deputy national police chief Jongrak Juthanond.

“We believe there is a rise in demand in the antique markets abroad where people like to decorate their living rooms with these images,” Jongrak said.

He met with hundreds of monks at Wat Phananchaoeng Worawiharn temple to discuss ways to improve security, such as closed-circuit cameras, higher fences and barred windows.

“It’s already sinful to steal from temples. It’s much worse to steal ancient relics,” Jongrak said. “The thieves are cursed and those who buy them are cursed, too.”

The latest case on Monday involved the theft of six Buddha statues from Wat Thammasinsopa temple in the province, about 90 kilometres north of Bangkok. Some of the statues were nearly 300 years old.

On Nov. 19, seven heads of sandstone Buddha images were stolen at Wat Dong Wai, said police.

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