Head-dress belongs in Thailand – panel

News

A government-appointed committee has concluded that a gold head-dress, currently on display at a museum in San Francisco, once belonged to Thailand.

“We will use diplomatic channels in a bid to bring it back,” the panel’s chairman, Arak Sanghitkul, said yesterday.

Arak is director-general of the Fine Arts Department.

The committee was asked to verify whether the gold head-dress was a piece of treasure rightfully belonging to Thailand. Other panels, such as that in charge of foreign cooperation, will help in the process of reclaiming it.

Arak said he would inform the Culture Ministry’s permanent secretary, Khunying Dhipavadee Meksawan, and the new culture minister before making any further moves.

The head-dress, previously believed to be a crown, caught

the attention of Thai authorities when it was displayed in a San Francisco museum exhibition entitled “The Kingdom of Siam. The Art of Central Thailand, 1350 – 1800”.

The Philadelphia Museum claims ownership.

Arak said experts would fly to the United States to check the item scientifically and artistically.

An archaeologist, Assoc Professor Saner Nildej, said after examining photos of the head-dress that he was 100 per cent convinced that it belonged to the Kingdom.

“But at this point, I have judged from photos. We still have to verify whether the item is authentic,” he said.

Saner added that the head-dress was made for casual wear, whereas a crown would be used on more formal occasions.

Prof Prasit Ekkabutr, a university lecturer in international law, said negotiation with the US was the best approach to reclaiming the head-dress.

“We can focus on protection of our cultural heritage,” he said.

Meanwhile, first-time MP Chuwit Kamolvisit led a group of Ramkhamhaeng University students to stage a rally in front of the US Embassy in Bangkok yesterday.

He handed a letter of protest addressed to US President George Bush to a US diplomat.

“Owning the heritage of other countries can’t be right,” Chuwit said, adding that an eagerness to buy the cultural heritage of other countries encouraged thieves to steal it.

Published on Mar 09 , 2005

Pakamard Jaichalard

The Nation

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