Antique hunters nabbed with over 1,000 artefacts and 10 million baht earnings

Photo courtesy of KhaoSod

Officials from the Department of Fine Arts and the Crime Suppression Division apprehended a gang of antique hunters, who had been selling their finds through Facebook. Over 1,000 items were seized in the raid which took place today.

The operation that nabbed the antique hunters was led by Major General Jiraphop Puridej, the head of the Crime Suppression Division, along with Lieutenant Colonel Montri Thesakhan, the chief of the Sub-Division 4, and Phanom Butr Jantarasoti, the Director-General of the Department of Fine Arts.

The antique hunters, identified as 26 year old Thosporn and 19 year old Thospol were caught in the area of Soi Fa in Photharam district, Ratchaburi province. Another suspect, 46 year old Sri-On, was apprehended in Tha Wang Thong sub-district, Mueang district, Phayao province.

The hunters were charged with the illegal possession and sale of antiques. The seized items included 11 metal detectors, digging tools, and 970 objects resembling artefacts, along with four bank passbooks.

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Major General Jiraphop stated that the authorities were alerted by a group of antiquities conservators, who reported illegal excavation and sale of artefacts online. The suspects’ Facebook accounts, which posted pictures of the excavation and advertised the sale, were discovered during the investigation.

The findings were verified by the Department of Fine Arts. The examination revealed that the seized items included an ancient engraved cow statue, estimated to be around 1,600 years old, and an elephant statue with a seal, dating back to the 21st Buddhist century.

Further investigation revealed a connection between the accused antique hunters. The first two suspects were siblings who posted pictures of themselves excavating artefacts at various locations on Facebook before advertising them for sale. Other individuals were also seen participating in the excavation of the artefacts in the images.

The officers gathered evidence against these antique hunters and issued arrest warrants for all three suspects, along with search warrants for nine suspected hiding places in Chiang Mai, Lampang, Phayao, and Sukhothai.

Over 1,000 objects resembling artefacts were found during the search. The suspects’ bank accounts showed monthly revenues of around 200,000 baht, with a turnover of over 10 million baht in the past three years reported KhaoSod.

The first two suspects confessed during questioning, while the third denied the charges. They were all handed over to Sub-Division 4 of the Crime Suppression Division for further legal proceedings.

Phanom Butr urged people who find objects resembling artefacts to hand them over to the Department of Fine Arts for inspection. He stressed that keeping such items is illegal and those who return them may be rewarded.

Phanom Butr further stated that the artefacts seized from the antique hunters included two 1,600 year old statues, which reflect the significant trade relations of the ancient era. If such items were lost or taken out of the country, it would be a significant loss to the nation as these priceless historical pieces of evidence could not be evaluated.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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